This is part of a series of posts about the Leadership Lattice, a framework for learning about the different dimensions of management and leadership.

The next layer of the Leadership Lattice is the Impact domain - it’s what all the previous layers add up to.

The impact domain is concerned with the broader impact of an organization’s products and services in market. For smaller, single product organizations - it can be argued that impact stops at the previous domain - after all, that’s where we talked about the outcomes of teams. For bigger organizations, this includes the second order impacts - how your products impact society and the world as a whole.

As grand as this sounds - this domain has a fairly narrow set of concerns. It is in this domain that the mission and vision of an organization is set. The mission is the grander purpose of why the organization exists, and the vision is the ‘end state’ of how this can be realized.

However, this can also be where negative second order effects are realized. For all the positive change we look to create in technology, our disruption mindsets often blind us to the negative consequences of success. Zuckerberg famously stood in front of congress and said he didn’t consider some of Facebook’s impact within his domain of responsibility. I use that to make a point about the domain, not about Zuckerberg or Facebook. Ultimately it’s the leaders that are accountable for these effects, no matter how broadly they are realized.

The guiding mental model here is second order thinking. This is the exercise of thinking of decision consquences beyond the immediate and obvious. It’s about asking - “and then what?”. Second order thinking recognizes everything is a system and our decisions will have ripple effects, and it’s our responsibility to [at a minimum] understand those impacts. The products we build can have massive positive and negative impacts in the world - it’s about understanding and taking ownership over those consequences. This is the ultimate burden of leadership.

The practices in this domain are, as I mentioned, rather narrow - mostly because it’s either one person (the CEO), or a very small group of people carrying out this practice.

  • Mission and Vision Setting, which reveals the positive intended consequences
  • Long Term Planning, this is on a longer time horizon than the regular strategic planning of an organization.

Some frameworks that can help here are:

  • Creating a Shared Vision, something also used in the Fifth Discipline
  • Tarot Cards of Tech is a playful framework to evaluate the longer term impacts of your products in market