This evening I was watching First Knight, as sleep once again has eluded me. I love that movie; if you haven't seen it, you really should. From a movie-watcher perspective, Julia Ormond (1), Richard Gere, and Sean Connery (2) gave top notch performances. From a story perspective, it's fabulous.
In the movie, the theme of Camelot is that they live and serve something greater than themselves in serving their country. They model the Judeo-Christian edict of giving of self for a good, for a cause, higher than their own wants and needs. It got me to thinking, in my life, I have felt that the companies I have worked for since I rejoined the public workforce in 2004 were very much like that as well. Camelots, in their own right. The company, not unlike the city, prospers in the fruits of a collective working to achieve a greatness beyond just their own job, or their own profits. They were, they are, bettering something - the people that worked there, the product they produced, and maybe even (and I know this is reaching a bit) the world... or our little piece of it, because they were/are in it. The ways they function were revolutionary in their fields, they were different. I feel very much, honored to have been and continue to associate with that type of company.
What makes a Camelot? One of the owners of the company I serve now, said early on to me something that was actually almost spot on said in the movie: "Either something is right, and true - or it isn't. You must always do first what is right, and you must believe in truth." In the movie, King Arthur said, "Either what we believe is right and just and true, and we must fight for what we believe in or we're just another Robert Tripe." (3) That resonates with me - I think, if you guide your life and your business and therefore your business practices within each business unit and position, by that statement, you are on your way to building a Camelot. My former company built a 'Camelot environment' through the belief that by empowering the individual through the freedom of accountability, you allowed for them to achieve more than they ever would have by holding them to the tight confines of 100% delegation. To have true leadership that people want to follow, you have to allow degrees of leadership in each individual. They live by life laws that noone in the company is above - an equalizer that again, empowers. Their system works well as they continue to grow, prosper and hold tightly-knit close relationships with one another. (4)
In the movie, what threatened the peace of the realm was a 'Prince' who was hungry for power, aptly named Maligant, whose very name invoked the thought of malignant behavior... and whose Malignance was his own lust for power. Guinevere made a reference early on about how power on the 'good guy,' Arthur, was worn lightly - on Maligant, he wore it as heavy armour and a sword that he brandished. In business, 'Maligant' comes in many forms. Sometimes, it's the rogue manager who thinks they are above everything and the rules do not apply to them - often, they end up being their own undoing, but seldom before they inflict harm on the 'realm' of the company. Sometimes, it's the business unit that overestimates it's importance and makes demands or commitments that do not align with the beliefs and purposes of the 'realm.' In the end, it usually ends up costing the company both money and often, leadership is lost through the ordeal. I think for most Camelot businesses at present, the Maligant is the current receding economy.
We are faced with a time whereby we will be told the rules must change to survive and get back to a thriving state. While clearly, nearly every company will have to work harder and smarter than before to achieve the results they easily come by in 'good times,' I truly believe Camelot companies will survive by holding to the principles that made them great. The beautiful thing about the statement the owner mentioned is that if it's right and true, it remains right and true even in harder times. Maybe even perhaps moreso. One of our Presidents said that the trick to leadership was getting people to want to follow you - to do what you want them to do, even though individually they may have never wanted to do it on their own. Another fabulous statement that fits in well with the Camelot business. How do you do it? In a word, caring.
It wasn't long ago that many businesses were Camelots and their employees were loyal for their entire working life. I think it was because they not only worked for something greater than themselves, they produced things that made the world a better place AND they cared for their employees that many businesses today do not. For at least the last 10 years, but really probably much longer (5), the leader-Kings of businesses no longer focused on building Companies with Camelot beliefs, but on Camelot-sized business. Ivory towers looking down on vast empires whereby people no longer mattered and a vast size producing an even vaster amount of profit was truly the only real end-game. Profit at all cost. With it came ritual annual layoffs to play with overhead reporting nd many other things that pushed principle and heart aside. Companies lost their Camelot standing because truthfully, they developed a malignance for power and profit that resulted in the loss of their soul. They had the size, but not the principles and truths that gave them a real Camelot.
While we undoubtably will face losses and potential hardships as a collective through the coming months, I have faith the Camelots I have served, and continue to, will come out whole. But there will be just as many companies that will have believed themselves to be a Camelot Company that will show that they were nothing more than glitter and flash. They will abandon what they consider to have been their principle(s) in fear, in their quest for survival. I don't know what else to say at the moment except it will be an interesting road ahead, folks.
(1) who, along with Aubrey Hepburn, Queen Elizabeth I and Grace Kelly, was who I wanted to be like when I grew up - just as a surgeon
(2) whom I have had a crush on since I was like - 6-
(3) Not really sure what he meant by the last part, but he said it with great conviction
(4) Of course, in the movie, Camelot lived on, though it's leader died.
(5) that's only as long as I've been following business