My favorite architect is Frank Lloyd Wright. (Everybody has a favorite architect, right?) For years, I’ve been drawn to his style that is deceptively simple yet very calculated. I’ve had the privilege of visiting and touring many of the homes he designed. My wife and daughter even got kicked out of the Robie House in Chicago…ask me about that sometime.
Frank Lloyd Wright, in talking about architecture, said this: “Every great architect…must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” Certainly Lloyd Wright did this, as one of the founding fathers of the Prairie and Craftsman styles so popular here in Walla Walla.
This quote reminds of a passage in the Bible, and helps point us to a leadership principle. In 1 Chronicles 12, David is gathering a collection of leaders who will aid him in establishing his kingdom. It is not going to be easy to establish his kingdom, so as you might expect, he wisely gathers quite a few soldiers, noted for their skill and bravery. Right in the middle of the list of folks David assembles, however, is a strange entry. In verse 32, David gathers the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” All the other folks David assembles are noted for their military prowess. Yet the Men of Issachar have another skill. Clearly, they’ve been studying Frank Lloyd Wright.
The ability to understand the time–and, more to the point the ability to interpret the times–is a key leadership skill. As leaders, we need to be putting ourselves in the culture enough to be able to understand and interpret popular thinking. Too many of us are scared of what we might find when we step outside our doors or outside our traditional patterns. But that does not seem to be a wise way to live, or to lead others. Knowing the times and falling prey to the times are two different things, but as leaders we need to have a certain degree of cultural relevance so that we can properly steer others.
How are you at understanding the times?
How are you at interpreting the times?
What tools and skills do you utilize to do this?