Here is another extract from Keith Coats’ excellent book of leadership reflections, “Everything I Know About Leadership I Learnt from the Kids” (buy it now from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com).
Eyes Wide Shut: Visionary Leadership
‘It’s your turn,’ accompanied by a rib-breaking jab to my side proved to be a firm deterrent to any further sleep and left me in no doubt that to protest would be about as successful as Custer’s last stand. Arising from the fog of coma-like slumber when all the sane world is sleeping is never easy but the fact that I did so was aided by the knowledge that unless rapid progress was made towards this end, further collateral damage could be expected.
As my mind and body desperately tried to find each other I locked on to the source of this intrusion into my sleep: Keegan’s cries of ‘Daddy, Daddy’ were as unmistakable as they were persistent. As I made my way to his room I wondered just how to ensure that in the future night calls could be rewired to ‘Mommy, Mommy’ and ‘Daddy, Daddy’ reserved for daylight saving only. Programming this kind of software into kids could make me a hero, a rich hero, to millions of fathers all around the world, I thought to myself; I would become a legend amongst men. Arrival at my destination curtailed any further development of this line of thought, but I promised myself that I would revisit this potentially ingenious idea.
‘Daddy, there’s a lion in my room,’ were the words that greeted me as I popped my head around the door and instantly I understood why it was I who had been called to duty. Lion-tamer, Superdad – a life-threatening situation that required the bravest of the brave . . . a job for dad! An exhaustive search ensued, one that Keegan watched wide-eyed from the safety of his bed, interrupting me from time to time to offer suggestions that had me looking in places where no self-respecting man-eater would choose to hide – a pencil case for one.
Eventually, the search concluded, I submitted my ‘no lion’ report to a clearly doubtful client and turned to leave the room to return to the sleep that I had left behind. It was as I turned off the light that I heard Keegan mutter to himself, ‘Of course there is a lion here. I see him every time I close my eyes.’
Seeing what others see when they close their eyes is something leaders who know how to inspire vision and nurture dreamers need to be able to do.
Organisations need dreamers, the fringe thinkers, the people who see things others don’t. It often happens that such people are not an easy fit in organisations and one is tempted to wish life without them. In his book Maverick Ricardo Semler writes that every company should be paying someone to be looking out the window. To be taking in the big picture, to be surveying the landscape, to be dreaming of what could be. Leaders are often under pressure to be this person, the person with their eyes wide shut. While this isn’t necessarily the best place for leaders, you do need to ensure that someone is doing this and when their report is given and the lion is spotted, the leader needs to be the one who declares loudly and clearly, ‘Well, why not?’
Such leaders are often called visionaries.