Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What holds organizations and their leaders from realizing their visions or living up to their values?

A. Creating visions that are fantasies rather than expressions of deeply held organizational and personal values or taking any other actions that are insensitive to or negate organizational and personal values.

(Editor's note: My answer was oversimplified and the questioner, H, in successive prompts, nudged me into greater clarity.)

H. I would however be interested to know more about what you qualify as fantasies: do you include here "visionary" visions on which leadership would build a change initiative, if they are too far off of a present reality and set too ambitious goals?

C. You asked, "What holds organizations and their leaders from realizing their visions or living up to their values?"
For leaders and organizations who fail to realize their visions, I perceive the primary obstacle to be in the nature of the vision itself. Even prominent leaders are sceptical of "the vision thing" because an appealing vision requires self-knowledge to articulate.
I propose that a vision is appealing when it resonates with deeply held values. A vision that fails to connect with these will have little appeal and is likely to go unrealized. If one embarks on anything with foreknowledge that the outcome is improbable, that would be chasing a fantasy. Unfortunately, recognizing that a vision is very helpful in stimulating change, some leaders choose to adopt a vision in order to appear legitimate and that is, of course, a manipulation and will generally be received as such.
I suspect leaders who fail to realize their visions have most often described fantasies for themselves and those they would lead, and that really brings their leadership into question. Ultimately the challenge is motivation. We are motivated by our values and effective leaders articulate visions that resonate for them personally and for their organizations.
As I have described a vision, it can never be too far off. To the contrary it is very present. It is part of one's reality. It will certainly be seen as "to far off" if it fails to connect with present values. Values, while they may change over time are timeless, creating our reality.

H. I guess I was puzzled at first by the "present" (rather than timeless) nature of the values opposed to a vision anchored somewhere in the future.

C. Timeless is not the same as permanent. Permanent is never changing, timeless is without time. Values are impermanent and timeless. A vision that resonates with values is timeless, it only resonates now.
A vision cannot be anchored in the future if its anchored in present values. A vision helps us to create a future, not because it describes the future but because it describes important and unfulfilled, present, values.

H. I still have some difficulty to understand how something timeless can only resonate now, if it is without time... Is this related to impermanence which I didn't quite get either?
impermanent= temporary? transient? fugitive? I don't see how this relates.

C. We have all been conditioned to believe certain things, most often those that are convenient for others. Some people find these ideas inconvenient (not incomprehensible) because their power depends upon you NOT believing in your own power.
When you are centered and present you are in touch with your own power. What is valuable for you now is timeless because it is irrelevant whether it had value in the past or will have value in the future. It only has value now. Thus any vision that incorporates these values is about now and not about the past or the future. By holding onto this vision in each succeeding now in which you decide and act, you are creating a future for yourself that is aligned to these values. Isn't that wonderful?
A leader is someone who creates their own future, a follower lets someone create their future for them! The leader who tries to create a future for others will find for followers only people who cannot create their own future and thus cannot build a high performance team! People who change for others will end up resenting their leaders. If people change for themselves and others do the same then we have the basis for communal change and a shared vision that resonates with shared values will accelerate that.
What "holds organizations and their leaders from realizing their visions or living up to their values" is if the values incorporated in the vision are not shared. Either the leaders or the organization or both don't really subscribe to the vision or espouse the values. Incongruent values shift one off-center, out of the present into the future or the past where we cannot lead ourselves responsively. In both cases the values are imaginary either as desires for the future or regrets for the past both of which stifle creativity because neither opens a developmental path.
I notice I'm preferring to use 'desires for the future' rather than 'fantasies.' Perhaps that helps.

H. Now we are crystal clear! I think it's a question of causality. I understand "now is timeless" and "timelessness is made of succeeding nows" much better than "what is timeless resonates now"... Values are indeed timeless and universal.



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