Perhaps this seems cliché, but as leaders, how often do we take time to dream? I don’t mean while asleep, I mean specific time set aside to consider aspirations, to set goals, to consider an ideal future picture and imagine the outcome of the dream fulfilled.
The day to day can be all-consuming. We tend to over-commit, filling our calendar with back-to-back meetings and running from appointment to appointment with little time in-between. The example we set is more than a willingness to do it all. We create an image of leadership that feels overwhelming to others, modeling a work pace that is challenging to replicate.
Is that what leadership means? To be busy, in-demand, time-saturated? Of course not! By definition, a leader directs; a leader has commanding authority or influence. Leaders are required to be decisive, to exude confidence, to promote honesty, and to require accountability. Most definitions will also include that leaders should inspire others.
Those last few words create pause. A busy schedule does not inspire. A well-thought out goal, when properly communicated, may inspire others. However, goals do not appear solely based on balance sheets or P&L statements. Goals do not become clearer because of a noted inefficiency in production. Areas of opportunity are identified due to operational or financial challenges, and the solutions to those concerns drive goals. Consider this, though: before a goal is set, a leader must first dream, imagining what is looks like or feels like to become better. To be inspirational, goals must stem from a dream. A dream is what actually inspires. A dream is what creates a sense of purpose; the stated goal is the desired fruition of the dream, and the plan then follows in order to direct activities to achieve the goal.
Do we calendar time to pause, to think, to reflect? Do we give ourselves permission to imagine, to believe in a different future? Perhaps we do once a year in the scheduled annual planning sessions that most companies engage in.
Leaders, that is not enough. We must dream daily. We cannot inspire others without a dream. Our dream should invigorate us. It ought to help us renew our own sense of purpose so we can then motivate others.
Do we dare to clear our calendars for a period of time each day – even if only for fifteen minutes – to purely think? To imagine? To dream? To allow ourselves to envision the future? To believe in the good that we can create? We must dare to dream. Without a dream, we are simply passing time, filling our calendars and giving well-intentioned speeches while missing the opportunity to truly make a difference for others.
The leadership lesson? Dare to dream. Set aside time each day to imagine a desired future, believing that you can create it. Dare to dream, and in doing so, inspire others to do the same. A dream can ignite others, creating a commitment to do and be better in all facets of our lives. Leaders, dare to dream.