Healthy Leaders


Good Leaders Are Ceiling Busters!

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Good leaders are ceiling busters! Vision is about possibility, and not probability. Probability involves merely the maintenance of the status quo. Leadership is about going somewhere else. Probabilities will likely happen if the present merely continues into the future, whereas possibilities need not be. But to a visionary leader, who imagines beyond the limitations and constraints that intimidate the hearts and minds of most, anything is possible!

All new ventures begin with possibility thinking; and the clarity and force of this vision will sustain the leader through the rejection, failure and disappointment that inevitably accompany any truly new initiative. A leader’s God-breathed vision acts as an organization’s magnetic north. It attracts human energy. It invites and draws others to participate sacrificially in the divine mission. The leader’s vision is what focuses the energy of the organization. Leaders see the possibilities of the future and then they share this vision with those they lead.

Visions are conceptualizations, but they become real as leaders express them in concrete terms. Just as architects make drawings and engineers build models, leaders find ways of expressing their hopes for the future. Then the vision becomes like a lens that focuses unrefracted rays of light. The clearer the vision, the more compelling it is to all who follow. No matter how much involvement other people have in shaping the vision, the leader must be able to articulate it clearly. He must keep the vision focused. To help them in internally clarifying, and then externally expressing their vision, leaders should:

Consider the difference between “vertical” and “lateral” or “horizontal” thinking. Vertical thinking begins with a single concept and then proceeds with that concept until a solution is reached. Horizontal thinking refers to thinking that generates alternative ways of seeing a problem before seeking a solution. Vertical and horizontal thinking are like two different ways of digging holes. Logic is the tool that is used to dig holes deeper and bigger, to make them altogether better holes. But if the hole is in the wrong place, then no amount of improvement is going to put it in the right place. No matter how obvious this may seem to every digger, it is still easier to go on digging in the same place than to start all over again in a new place.

In short, vertical thinking is digging the same hole deeper; horizontal thinking is trying again elsewhere. Certainly there appear to be some advantages in digging in the same hole since a half-dug hole offers a clear direction in which to expend effort. In addition, no one is paid to sit around being capable of achievement. As there is no way of assessing such capability it is necessary to pay and promote according to visible achievements. Far better to dig the wrong hole (even one that is recognized   as being wrong) to an impressive depth than to sit around wondering where to start digging. However, many holes are being dug to an impractical depth, many in the wrong place, and breakthroughs usually result from someone abandoning a partly-dug hole and beginning anew in a different place.

The vision will provide a “strategic umbrella” in the sense that it will describe a clear strategic direction in overarching terms for the organization. The general nature of the overarching goals of the vision will allow for more specific, tactical goals to be formulated as opportunities arise and barriers appear. The vision will provide broad action guidelines.

A well-articulated vision provides the people at all levels in the organization with a simple memory tool to align their values, actions, and decisions with the organization’s strategic objectives. Its simplicity also promotes clarity of focus. Through minimization of the number of goals, organizational resources are more likely to be focused.

Good leaders punch through the ceilings. They don’t let a ceiling be an obstruction; they make it a target!

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