Chief Meaning Officer – Leading With Clarity


By Nilakantasrinivasan

Recently, a leader I knew for long time, moved from a line responsibility to a functional role. While she thought it’s going to be a cake-walk, but it turned out be a moon-walk.

She mis-judged the functional role to be less complex than that of the line role where she handled large teams.

Whether you are an aspiring mid-level manager or a seasoned senior, you are no exception to structural changes, moving to a larger roles, making a lateral moves or simply moving to a new employer. And at some such point or the other, all of us are guilty of under estimating the situation on hand. Later on, it is so evident that we overlooked. Whether we blame VUCA or time pressure, the fact remains that we lacked clarity!

Well, that is easy said, but, as leaders, what can we do about it? We can gather data and facts before making decisions. We have moved from an era of no data to one with too much data, yet our decisions are equally flawed.

We can communicate clearly to the team; And yes, with email, whatsapp & other multi-media tools, we are certainly communicating more often than before.

We can empathize, connect better and socialize with our teams.

And yet, poor clarity leads to wrong decisions.

Leading with Clarity is a pyramid with 3 key layers, viz., Clarity of Purpose, Clarity of Plan and Clarity of Responsibility.


If you want to be the ‘Chief Meaning Officer’ of your team (or org), you will have to work on these three elements.

Clarity of Purpose

As a leader, you need to be clear on where the organization is heading, or rather where should it be heading towards? And more importantly, ‘Why’. This is what we call as“True North”. Lacking this foresight, sooner or later, your team’s energy will dissipate counterproductively. If you believe that you are doing a good job on this, be sure not to assume that communicating with clarity will do the job. That is only half the battle won.

Clarity of Plan

Whether it is about maintaining the status-quo (run the business) or transformation (change the business), without deliberate plans, nothing works. Who is ever going to do anything without a plan? So, it’s not about creating a plan, but is about deciding on the priorities, on the means or approach, on the scope of action and on how realistic the plans are.

Clarity of Responsibility

Invariably all organizations, that I interviewed, highlighted ‘Lack of Accountability” as their biggest problem. Balanced Score Cards or other performance management systems drive behaviors. Choosing the wrong metrics and assigning wrong ownership is more damaging than not MBO. Without sustainable and scalable mechanisms, shared ownership, co-ownership and matrix organization are only nice jargons

Challenge Yourself

  • Assimilation Vs Synthesis – Most of us seek more data, but don’t synthesize it properly. We just glance through the data and do what we any way wanted to do.
  • Free wheeling Vs Method to Madness – We go high after reading a management book in flight and try it out the next day. There’s nothing wrong with that but a style that lacks definite method or approach is inconsistent, and so are you as a leader.

Coming out Clear

  • Consider using methods (tools & techniques) to synthesize. Our Online Course on Leading with Clarity Covers following tools & techniques, from a perspective of decision making.
    • True North
    • Golden Threads
    • SIPOC
    • In frame/Out Frame
    • MoSCoW
    • Cross Functional Process Maps
    • Process Centric Behaviors
    • Metrics Tree Map
  • Play the role of facilitator to involve the team in the process of synthesis. Let the team appreciate the meaning & merit of the decisions you take.

Being the Chief Meaning Officer is an inward journey. It starts with Self-Clarity and expands outwardly.

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