Leaders, when pursuing stretch goals, you may doubt yourself and your organization may push back. This is to be expected.

Also – A 5-minute video of Isadore Singer, who died this week – age 96

Casting vision is an important part of a leader’s job. Without vision, you can manage an organization, but without fresh vision it will eventually stall.

Vision is a picture of the future that is better than the present. It envisions an improvement, an upgrade, over the current status. So vision requires change, and most people resist change. When you cast vision for your organization, it will create pressure and tension. You’ll feel it yourself and you’ll sense it in others. This is normal. Take a deep breath and carry on.

Here’s an object lesson that illustrates the tension and strain that vision creates. Hold a rubber band between your two index fingers. Consider your right finger as your organization’s status quo, your left finger as the future of your organization, and the rubber band as the tension that exists between the present and the future. Keeping your right hand stationary, move your left hand farther away; the tension in the rubber band increases as more pressure is produced with more distance. Similarly, vision creates tension in organizations.

I’m the executive director of a small non-profit organization. Years ago, I led the organization to purchase four acres adjacent to DFW Airport and we remodeled an existing building for our headquarters. It was a major financial commitment. I used my personal financial assets as collateral on the loan.

The morning after closing on the property, I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking, What have I done? My team and supporters were kind and helpful, but at times I could sense them wondering, Is this going to work?  

It did work, and when the vision became reality it was a wonderful result.

I’m not suggesting that leaders be impulsive, reckless, or make unilateral decisions. I’ve written often about the advantages of collaborative, careful leadership.

I’m simply saying that leading aggressively through bold vision comes with a price: risk, tension, pressure, the possibility of failure…and that these factors should be anticipated and negotiated.

Bold leadership is not for the faint of heart.

Action item — Leaders, evaluate your vision-casting. Do you have fresh vision for your organization?

Discussion question — Share a time in your life when, as an individual or the leader of an organization, you felt the pressure that accompanies bold vision

Also: Isadore Singer, one of the most important mathematicians of our age, created a bridge between two seemingly unrelated areas of mathematics and then used it to build a further bridge, into theoretical physics. In this video, observe the humble nature of this beautiful mind. Let’s imitate his unceasing curiosity about life and learning.

6 Replies to “Leaders, when pursuing stretch goals, you may doubt yourself and your organization may push back. This is to be expected.”

  1. How to boil this down to a paragraph…The only time in my life I was fired, I was Ass’t Regional VP of a small insurance company. We were being left behind and needed an infusion of, not money, but new product. I reached out to investigate the possibility of collaboration with or purchase of a strong innovative General Agency. I made my pitch to higher management. The CEO, for his own reasons (I think I know), didn’t like the idea and, rather than simply kill the idea, told me I had until noon to empty my desk and be gone. I guess you might call that resistance. 🙂

    But…”All things work together for good…”. While the sting of that experience lingered for a time, it led me to set up my own business, which turned out to be the best career decision of my life.

    1. Neil, thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry for the pain of that event, but glad it turned to something better. Isn’t it interesting how painful roadblocks often change our trajectory and years later we’re grateful for them. Take care.

        1. Hi James. You work with a good man. Dane and I have been friends for decades. I hope you benefit from my post. Where do you live?

  2. Never ceases to amaze me the number of languages I do not understand – even the mathematics language – But I am blessed by those who know the language and use it!

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