Overcoming the Thing that Holds Leaders Back
Leadership begins with imagination, nothing less, nothing more, and nothing else. Leaders without imagination are followers.
Imagination is the thought of that which isn’t.
Everything that exists began in someone’s imagination. Once upon a time, before they existed, someone imagined light bulbs. Apart from imagination, we’d all be in the dark.
Don’t tell me what you know and do.
Tell me what you imagine.
The thing that holds you back isn’t lack of desire, its lack of imagination. Most don’t dare imagine who they could be.
Small imagination extends what is;
great imagination transcends it.
Roadblocks to imagination:
- Expectations crush imagination. Yielding to what others expect you to be crushes your imagination of yourself.
- Stress ends pretending.
- Responsibilities drain imagination. I asked a businessman when he was most himself and he said, “When I’m away.”
- Build on success. Imagination finds courage after small successes. You dare think “what else” after a win.
- Imagine who before what. Make room for leadership that expresses who you are or life becomes fragmented, frustrating, and empty.
- Play. Schedule playtime. The thought of play terrifies leaders who’ve lost imagination. After all, grownups don’t pretend.
- Embrace silence. Quiet opens doors for imagination.
Successful leaders help others imagine who they could be. The people who change us most imagine us best.
Help others courageously imagine themselves in new ways.
Arrogance imagines for. Humility imagines with.
Generous leaders take time to imagine the future of employees, colleagues, team mates, and bosses. Selfish leaders are, on the other hand, consumed with themselves.
- Say, “I think you have more in you.”
- Explore what could be when they feel frustrated again. Repeated frustrations represent imaginations opportunity.
- Toss out untapped opportunities and see what gets traction.
- Ask, “What if.”
Imagination without courage, will, and direction eventually frustrates and ultimately defeats.
How John Maxwell helped Brad Lomenick, the author of “The Catalyst Leader,” and CEO of Catalyst imagine himself differently (1:25).
Check out the great list of leadership I’s on the Leadership Freak Facebook Page. While you’re there, add leadership J’s for tomorrow’s post.
How is imagination kindled?
How can leaders help others imagine themselves in new ways?
You chose a perfect topic for “I.” Imagine and dream without limits!
A delight to read! Thank you.
“Successful leaders help others imagine who they could be.” Yes!
Great word today! Imagination is definitely what gets us to know what “where” is before we start on the journey. I also think imagination has strong ties to empathy, which is a great tool for building trust and creating influence. As always, thanks for the thoughts!
This is an interesting post. I love the points you share about imagination. I will plan to go back to see the earlier posts in the series. I did make a bid for the “J” word for tomorrow. I suggest “just”.
How is imagination ignited?…
In one’s self…..
-Ensuring you carve out space and time to dream away from the conveyer belt of activity and doing
-Considering other people’s reactions or fears but not allowing them to override or dismantle your own perspective- maintaining an independent perspective on what you see and imagine
– Read, listen, observe the world around you… u never know when a seed of an idea or new perspective will be sparked
-Encourage dreaming and what if…sharing
-Carve out space and time for people to share their imagination and aspirations free from judgement
– Carve out space and time for cross fertilization of teams, departments, functions- new perspective can spark new ways of imagining what might be….
Its like brainstorming… there needs to be safe space and time, free from judgement or fear of ridicule, set aside for new idea generation and imagination sharing
Reviewing what is imagined with what is on the ground- and determining how or what aspects can be incorporated into planning, comes later… if the planning and judging happens too soon, it may shut down people’s feelings of safety and freedom to dream- First identify what can be… what should be… what if…. then you can think about how.Too often people stop themselves from dreaming about what might be because they cannot see beyond the limitations of what is. They seem to feel imprisoned by the status quo.
Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement to dream!
I have been accused of “magical thinking”… I now have another way of understanding the importance of what I see through the prism of my imagination!
Imagination kindled BY QUESTIONING EVERYTHING!!!!!!!! Haven’t you been listening????? Aren’t you AWAKE?????
Don’t feel bad most people are not awake.
I recommend NOT PRACTICING my I word for the DAY!
Ignotism……mistake due to ignorance.
If you keep an OPEN MIND and challenge everything from a curious frame of mind you lessen your chances of being an Ignotist!
Don’t be an Ignotist! Or do, it is completely up to you, your closed mind and your ignorance does not aggrevate or irritate me in the slightest! It effects YOU.
If you want something really cool to open your imagination to today, try this!
Today BE AN Illuminist…….belief in an inner Spiritual Light!
Be like Browning said…….to open a way whence to let the imprisoned splendor escape. Pretty cool, huh?
Yeah like Matthew Fox when he named his book, Original Blessing.
Pretty cool way to start out thinking about YOU, or go with the alternative, if you check to average self esteem of the folks on the planet seems that alternative ain’t working out so good!
Thanks Dan, have a great one, I AM!
SP Out to IMAGINE! ps I hope to illaqueate…..to ensare…. your curiosity and imagination to investigate Truly Human Leadership. It is spectacular.The alternative gives us a result of 70% disengaged people at their jobs. My question is how high does that disengaged % have to get till you will look into Truly Human Leadership that results in 72% teammate satisfaction. Number have to get to 80%, 90%, 100%? What is your tipping point to open your mind and JUST LOOK? Disengaged or Satisfied, your choice.
Hey Dan. I like the comment about following leadership that expresses who you are. Leadership positions can be a very lonely place. Frequently, the higher one goes, the smaller your circle of ‘true friend’ become. Do some honest soul searching, self evaluation if you will, and ask yourself, “where do my strenthes lie, and what do I really want to do and be”. Finding yourself in a position you don’t like that doesn’t match your strengthes brings little to no gratification. Doing so alone, or with a shrinking support group doesn’t make it any easier. Have a graet day ‘Super-Fly’!
Love this point: “Small imagination extends what is; great imagination transcends it.” Great imagination requires genuine creativity.
Remember that small imagination is better than no imagination though. It can be a good starting point — as you said, “Imagination finds courage after small successes.”
Imagination seems to be one of those things that adults make sure to eliminate from children as soon as they hit teenage years.
We start asking children to behave like grown ups. We ask them to stop fooling around, to choose a career that will make them money and earn respect.
I guess we start believing we know better when all we are really doing is conforming to what everyone else does.
Another great post, Dan. Thanks.
Dan – as usual, good on all that. Imagination that links to communications and involvement and innovation. All cool.
But I keep flipping back to the old Dune Trilogy of Frank Herbert and his, “Fear is the mindkiller…” mantra that was said as a way of controlling the emotional side of things. You have written a good bit about the issues of emotions and I think that imagination is pretty directly and oppositely linked to the fear that a lot of leaders have about so many things.
Fear IS the mindkiller!
I just posted up another in my series of articles around Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly and one of the realities is this whole “resistance to change” thing. Caterpillars may resist the transmutation to butterflies because being grounded is simply a lot safer than being blown around by the wind and visible to birds and all that…
CAN we get people to imagine if they are in a state of fear?
Hey Doc, chirping in if that is ok.
When people are in a state of fear aren’t they imagining fearful things? I do, am I like everyone else?
I know for me most what I feared never came about, so wasn’t that time in the state of fear imaginary? Have you ever been afraid of things that never happened? Like you broke a lamp as a kid and were afraid what would happen if you told your Momma? You did and instead of whupping you she hugged you for telling the truth?
I like to look to opposites, the opposite of fear in my experience is Love, not imagination. That way I could see the result if one thing was taken away.
In other words, if you are fearful adding imagination doesn’t make the fear go away. If I am fearful and I Love, the fear scatters.
Like bringing a light into a room, the darkness scatters.
I believe the opposite of imagination is unimagination and that means dull, not creative, repetitive.
Not sure I got exactly what I was getting at into words but think I might have.
Anyway, just stirred me to think, so I write.
SP OUT! people are MOSTLY imagining when they are in a state of fear.
Love this and will for sure use some of these tips in my current reviews with employees- excited to try out.
Imagine the possibilities – it is powerful .
Good point Dan, I especially think it is important for us to get out of our regular enviroments, to see more. If we don’t, it becomes more difficult for us to imagine because our perspectives become so myopic. It is hard to step out of the box mentally if we don’t do it physically. Then, it is even harder to see the others, the “who” effectively. I can hear ‘ol John Lennon singing now….
This IS THE question. Thank you Dan and all. Like Schwarmer’s Theory U, imagination is the KEY to leading from the future, or that which is not yet, but which is fully possible. I wrestle with staying grounded in the now as a way to use my imagination with others ( and so really our imaginations) to access the possible future.
Full on gratitude,
Thanks for the insightful read. I have noticed that when I have an unproductive day at work I come home and design jewelry for hours. However, when I have a productive day at work I come home and enjoy watching television. Seems so obvious now, that responsibility drains imagination. I had been attributing it to my need to feel productive. If I didnt get that from work, I’d try to get it from jewelry. Makes sense that I was just experience imagination drain on those days that I had many responsibilities at work.