How to Leverage the Power of Imagination to Develop Leaders
Will Durante summarized some of Aristotle’s thoughts when he wrote, “You are what you do repeatedly….”
You are what you repeatedly do AND what you do begins with imagination. You only do what you first imagine yourself doing.
If you can’t imagine it, you can’t do it.
Imagination is the beginning of everything we create.
First things first:
The gap between aspiration and performance is first bridged with imagination.
You imagine how you’ll handle a tough conversation or lead a meeting, then you do it. Untested skills and behaviors are first practiced in your imagination.
Excellence is bringing performance into alignment with imagination.
Beginning not end:
Imagination is a beginning. You can’t become a great communicator by sitting on the couch imagining your words influence others.
Imagination doesn’t create anything. Only action brings things into existence.
You become who you imagine yourself to be, but only when imagination shapes action. What if you can’t imagine new actions?
Who do you know:
Suppose you’re helping someone develop finesse with tough conversations. Ask them to tell you how they might handle the next conversation. If they say, “I don’t know,” tap into their imagination.
Ask, “Who do you know that is great at leading tough conversations?” After they say someone’s name, ask them, “What might they do?” Make a list of three behaviors.
Repeat this exercise two or three times. Ask, “Who else comes to mind?” (The people you discuss don’t have to be perfect.)
Use the list of behaviors. “Which of these behaviors might you try?” Follow that with, “Could you tell me what you might do if you tried that? Be as specific as possible.”
New behaviors first live in our imagination.
You become who you imagine yourself to be if you put imagination into action.
How do you help people develop new behaviors?
“Encouragement”, “for every door that closes another shall open”, Support them on their way, showing them real life stories of others. There is no greater accomplishemnt than believing in oneself. Together you build foundations.
Thanks Tim. You can’t overestimate the power of stories to help us believe. The stories of others help us imagine ourselves in new ways.
Imagination can be sparked by observing someone perform in a new way. Observation triggers imagination. When you see someone else doing it, you can start to imagine yourself doing it.
Lesson–it’s always useful to watch top performers execute their talent.
This will preach. I teach high school seniors daily. I preach to a congregation weekly. This is quite helpful – tap into the imagination. Imagine life 10 years from now….what do you see? what would you like to see? Imagine literally putting on Christ….how does that feel? Good stuff. Thanks, Dan, and Merry Christmas to you.
Thought-provoking post, Dan! Most of us have had the experience of seeing or hearing about some innovation and musing, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The answer is that we were probably busy thinking about other things! I have long been convinced that developing and maintaining a high “capacity to imagine” must be encouraged in organizations to ensure that they remain relevant to their purposes. Exercising one’s imagination is as necessary for leaders as exercising one’s body.
Many of my generation (and older) came of age hearing the Napoleon Hill maxim, “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Every creation of man begins with an idea and, absent imagination, ideation is impossible. But it is folly to discount the importance of belief, the faith that the mental creation, the imagined idea, is achievable and worthy of the expenditure of time and energy to make it a physical reality.
When I network with new people especially on a job search, I ask a hard, challenging question. Invariably they pause and look down and give a weak response. I have them ask me the same question, I look right at them, paraphrase the question to give me time and then answer briefly.
People remember this exercise and hopefully improve. The key is often how you respond not the exact words.
I see what you did there. Way to lead by example!
love this quote, “Excellence is bringing performance into alignment with imagination.”