19 January 2007

Leadership, Possibility and Us Critics

Life is full of possibilities, most which we don’t even consider.

It's Friday and tonight you could read a book and enjoy it thoroughly. You could read a book but if you do you'll miss out on hitting the clubs with your friends, attending a play, watching a live concert, rock wall climbing, dining at the new tapas restaurant you've been curious about, jogging in preparation for a half-marathon scheduled for this summer, trying out that new curried chicken recipe that looked so good, starting to write your own book, mustering up the courage to contact the Toastmaster's group, begin a weight-lifting program, drive out to Las Vegas for the weekend, wander around the mall with your friend, experiment with meditation, buy a DNA kit and send in a sample for analysis and family history, make sandwiches for 20 homeless people, volunteer at a youth club, visit a .... You get the idea. For every one thing you consciously choose to do you are consciously or unconsciously choosing not to do about a million other things.

Powerful leaders have the ability to tune us in to possibilities that we had not previously, or seriously, considered.

"By the end of this decade, we will put a man on the moon and return him safely," JFK said. We are going to make a personal computer that the average person will want to use. We will make our downtown areas so safe and so stimulating that families will feel delighted to have their children go downtown at any time. We will transform people's idea of fast food into meals that make people feel more vibrant, more alive, to feel healthy.

A leader works like a radio receiver, able to pull signals out of the air, signals that the rest of us perceive only as static, and broadcast that possibility as something compelling, into a tune we can dance to. After a leader speaks, static turns into a tune we hum.

So what is our job here in the blogosphere? It is to point out to the humming masses that there are alternatives to the tune they are humming. Opportunity costs suggests that we don't just judge the book you're reading but actually consider what else you could be doing. A social critic notes that we're about to spend $1.2 trillion on the occupation of Iraq and asks what else one could buy with that sum.

Your mission, should you accept it, is to sing songs of possibility that are so compelling that leaders and the humming masses have little choice but to tune in. It's hard work, but what else were you going to do with your blog?


Eric Byers said...

I've been thinking about what it takes to lead also. I find that a lot of people who currently lead (on all levels) usually are not coming up with the ideas, they are just being relayed through them.

I personally think a real leader should have passion, someone who is able to actually understand what is good for those they lead, not just a best guess.

As for that list, that was quite inclusive. I find that when it's a Friday Night I tend to think I should be doing something more exciting, not sure why the actual day of the week should effect that.

Life Hiker said...

I agree with you and Eric. Leadership is hard work, and leaders spend most of their energy leading. Original thinking is also hard work, and thinkers spend their energy doing that.

I don't believe President Kennedy had a clue whether or not a moon mission was possible, but he believed an original thinker who convinced him it could be done, and he convinced the country to embrace the vision.

I wish I could say that I'm an original thinker, but that would be a lie. My specialty is "maximizing" - looking at "what is",comparing that system with the known alternatives, identifying the desired state, and leading the change process...nothing as sexy as having an original thought, but you have to admit you've got frustrations that a guy like me could probably fix.

Each of us has at least one special talent that we can choose to use, at least some of the time, toward improving the general welfare of humanity.

If you can sing beautiful songs of possibility, sing them. If you can fix broken processes, fix them. If you know how to befriend a friendless person, befriend them. As Ron says, we make choices, and we don't always have to read a book.