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.