Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not much happens without a dream

The following is an excerpt from Robert Greenleaf's book "Servant Leadership," a concept that "encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization's values and integrity."


The very essence of leadership, going out ahead to show the way, derives from more than usual openness to inspiration. But the leader needs more than inspiration.

A leader ventures to say, "I will go; come with me!" A leader initiates, provides the ideas and structure, and takes the risk of failure along with the chance 0f success.

A leaders says, "I will go; follow me!" while knowing that the path is uncertain, even dangerous. One then trust those who go with one's leadership.

A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction. As long as one is leading, one always has a goal. It may be a goal arrived at by a group consensus, or the leader, acting on inspiration, may simply have said, "Let's go this way." But the leader always knows what it is and can articulate it for any who are unsure.

By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves.

The word "goal" is used here in the special sense of the overarching purpose, the big dream, the visionary concept, the ultimate consummation that one approaches but never really achieves. It is something presently out of reach; it is something to strive for, to move toward, to become.

It is so stated that it excites the imagination and challenges people to work for something they do not yet know how to do, something they can be proud of as they move toward it.

Any achievement starts with a goal -- but not just any goal and not just anybody stating it. The one who states the goal must elicit trust, especially if it is a high risk or visionary goal, because those who follow are asked to accept the risk along with the leader.

Leaders do not elicit trust unless one has confidence in their values and competence (including judgment) and unless they have a sustaining spirit that will support the tenacious pursuit of a goal.

Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality, but the dream must be there first.