Continuity and Candles

Wealth never lasts for three generations. - Chinese Proverb

The first generation creates. The second generation grows. The third generation spends.

This idea is true for organizations and continuity. This becomes clear when we observe student organizations. The turn over is typically high and the lifetime of one generation of leadership is short.

Consider the analogy of using one lit candle to light ten candles. The first candle is the original source of the flame and each candle it lights can share that flame with others.

Now think of each candle as an employee and the flame as the vision of the company. The founder is the first candle, the source of the vision. It’s important that the founder spreads the vision to every employee of the company. When the company grows to say a hundred candles. Now it’s up to the other employees to share their flame and light the other candles.

When teams start to turn over it’s crucial that this flame doesn’t die. It becomes an existential risk to a company when leadership positions are given to people that don’t have their candles lit. Here, the vision stops with them. The people who report to them have no sense of why this organization exists, and it shows in their work.

Thus it’s critical for the founder to communicate the vision and for the employees to help cascade that vision to everyone in the company.

This is how organizations last.

January 12, 2020

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