Apr 10, 2017 | Leadership

A few years ago, my family and I went to Cancun to celebrate my husband’s birthday. While we were there, we took a trip to Chichen Itza, one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán peninsula.

Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes a stepped pyramid dedicated to Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god. The pyramid is a feat of Mayan engineering and an astronomical marvel.

Each of the four sides has stairs with 91 steps. The platform at the top serves as the last step, for a total of 365 steps in all.

During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun’s shadow forms an enormous snake’s body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the pyramid. You can stand about 30 meters in front of the main face of the pyramid, clap your hands, and the sound travels up the face and bounces back out like the sound of a sacred bird worshipped by the Mayans.

When you visit Chichen Itza, you can’t help thinking about the pyramids left by other ancient civilizations around the world. The Mayan and Egyptian pyramids are best known, but pyramids can also be found in places like China, Iraq, France, and the Canary Islands.

We know that Chichen Itza’s stepped pyramid served as a temple to Kukulcan. He was the god of laws, fishing, healing, the calendar, and agriculture. We know that the Egyptian pyramids served as tombs to preserve the bodies of pharaohs and help their souls cross over to the afterworld. We also know that the pyramid archetype has been passed down for thousands of years, and is still embedded in our organizations.

Where does the power flow in your organizational pyramid? Does it flow up to the person at the top to preserve his or her legacy in perpetuity? Or, does it flow down to benefit the larger community?

In his book, On Moral Business, Max L. Stackhouse wrote that “Business leaders are increasingly the stewards of civilization.” Stackhouse argued that many of our institutions – government, families, universities and churches – are failing. What if the responsibility for future civilization depends on business leaders?

When you work as though society depends on the decisions you make as a business leader, it makes you think about which way the power is flowing in your organization. Is society better off because your organizational pyramid exists?

Question: What are you doing to test the flow of power in your organization? Do you track employee and customer satisfaction? Does your organization give time, talent or treasure to the community?

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