1) The ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful; 2) A mental faculty forming images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses; 3) The process of imagining (fancies, fantasies).
See beyond current circumstances. Imagination is a powerful force that can open up possibilities and allow us to see beyond current circumstances into a future not yet realized. Which brings us to the essence of leadership – to paint a picture of the future that rises above the current state and outline a promised future compelling for all people to participate in.
See goals as “dreams with a deadline”. Leaders must dream dreams and be prepared to use their imaginations to envision the future. They do not see “dreaming” as time spent “daydreaming”. True leaders do not see their roles as strictly creating deliberate strategies and easy-to-understand tactics. They are comfortable that so-called “fuzzy” imagination can create high performance.
Distinguish between management and leadership. In organizations the world over, you do not have to be a leader in order to be a manager. Managing tasks is about tactical execution – getting people to do things right. The question is whether they are doing the right things. A missing element could be imagination borne of an agreed sentiment that one’s doing is tied to a higher vision.
Lead with a compelling vision of the future. To lead with vision is to first draw from the spark of one’s own imagination. Logic and reason tend to impose boundaries on human potential, whereas leading with vision creates a compelling ‘why’ in people’s minds. Soul-inspiring leaders draw broadly from their knowledge of human nature to craft visions that engage followers’ imaginations.
Have your vision serve a greater good. The vision might be to change the world by introducing a revolutionary product or service that advances lives or progress. Martin Luther King had a dream. Gandhi bore the hopes of a nation. They are truly exemplary leaders who turned dreams into reality and people willingly followed, creating a reality they alone dared cast as possible.
Be prepared to check your title at the door. In soul-inspiring organizations, everyone is expected to be part of the idea-generation process. Anyone’s ideas are considered valuable and powerful. Not necessarily will every idea offered up be implemented. Rather, leaders settle on a few ideas that can generate the outcomes to which everyone is committed.
Generate the future by going to the unknown rather than the known. The future already exists apart from present reality; it is not created from what we know, but from another dimension where we do not colour it with either past or present experiences. We can bring that unpolluted future to us in the moment through our imaginations and use it in the now. This uses our extensive untapped capabilities.
Questions For Reflection
What is compelling for others about the vision you have set forth?
Have y0u ever truly dreamed about the possibilities of what you do, including the potential to change the world?
How can you learn to better engage people’s imaginations, and what would happen to your leadership style if you adopted this method?