Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Firms of various sizes are not immune to the current state of the economy. The conditions are very harsh out there. It will be interesting to see the firms that are still standing in a few years when the upward motion of the economy will fuel the momentum we need to see.

The survivability of these firms will be in no small part due to the sustained vision of that firm’s leader. One of the traits that leader will have is vision. Jonathan Swift states, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.”

From day one, the leader must be able to dream a vision and work towards inspiring others in making that dream come true. However, that vision must be a clear and worthy vision, in order to inspire others. The leader’s commitment to the purpose of the vision will transfer to others, into their own vision and purpose. When you have this congruence that flows from the top to the bottom, one should not forget that communication of this vision should also flow from the bottom to the top.

Hasn’t it been suggested that you should keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? However, taking the negativity out of the equation, even in company of your closest advisers you should not only listen to those who disagree with you, but to seek them out. An effective leader should not feel attacked when this happens; rather, this is a way to see all points of view. A strong leader must never be deterred from the original vision, especially if that vision was well-conceived. Leaders must be decisive, yet open to criticism. In fact leaders should welcome this challenge. It helps solidify the driving purpose of an organization, down to the rank and file. There will be some course-correction along the way, but as long as it complements the original direction, this should be welcome.

In terms of driving I have had the privilege of driving BMW vehicles for some time now. The Ultimate Driving Machine. From the time each BMW rolled off the assembly floor the end user is fairly certain of the quality of the craftsmanship and purpose of that vehicle. I would not have chosen a BMW if I also did not share in the engineer’s vision. However, the road condition, the weather condition, the occasional valet driver … they may decide to challenge this vision. Going for a drive in that BMW 100 miles an hour from California to Vegas I’m sure I’ll encounter some challenges. Perhaps it’s as simple as one or two misaligned wheels? Next thing you know the tires start cupping and vibrations in the vehicle start shaking the vehicle. While it’s wise to address these challenges really soon thereafter, would it not have been better to seek them out prior to making such an intense (non-cop friendly) task. The Ultimate Driving Machine is not so ultimate anymore, is it? Take the ultimate dotcom that commanded venture capital funding without a solid business plan. Take the ultimate marriage of a couple with no solid plan after the honeymoon.

Nevertheless it is interesting to point out the makeup of the individuals who contribute to a leader’s vision.

I remember reading a story almost a decade ago told by Manchester United’s sports psychologist .There were three men who were laying bricks, and each was asked what he was doing. The first bricklayer stated, “Laying bricks.” The second bricklayer stated, “Earning ten pounds per hour.” The third bricklayer had a much bigger vision and stated, “I’m building a cathedral and, one day, I’ll bring my kids back here and tell them that their dad contributed to this magnificent building.”

The psychologist suggested to the team they can apply these three approaches to the training they were about to undergo. Which team member was to respond:

· I’m just practicing

· I’m earning 1,000 pounds per hour

· I’m helping to build the best Manchester United team ever and I’ll be proud to tell my grandchildren I was part of it."

At the start of that day’s training, promptly scoring a goal 30 yards away David Beckham ran off celebrating and shouting “Cathedral 1, Bricklayers 0.”

Leaders must dream their vision, seek others’ dissenting views, inspire others to see the grander vision, and plow forward in unison.


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