Leadership #4: Imagination

leadership imagination mark twain

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

Imagination is the ability to form a mental image of something that is not yet perceived through the senses. It is the ability of the mind to build mental scenes, objects or events that do not exist, are not present or recreate events that have happened in the past. Imagination is about creating a new story, a new picture that also is attainable to the everyday person. It’s the ability to both see what is not yet, and what can be…

It gives a leader the ability to look at any situation from a different point of view, and enables one to mentally explore the past and the future. A developed and strong imagination strengthens your creative abilities, and is a great tool for recreating and remodeling your world and life.

We use our imagination everyday, whenever we plan a trip, our work schedule or even how a meeting will run out. We imagine the important and non-important but pleasurable moments we are planning throughout the day. We use it when we describe an event, explain how to arrive to a certain street, write, tell a story or cook a meal.

The creative power of imagination has an important role in the achievement of success in any field, not just the creative arts.

There were two essential ingredients, behind the genius of Churchill’s wartime leadership. Imagination and Courage. Great leaders are those who have great imagination and great courage. Imagination is a more encompassing idea than vision.

To be imaginative, however, as a leader, is to cultivate a finely balanced ability to imagine a future possibility and also see with clarity all the possible ways to be able to communicate that vision as realistic and achievable. Churchill cultivated each of these processes of the truly imaginative person. He had a solid grasp of the contemporary world crisis that he faced. This gave him the ability to be a realistic visionary, and he also possessed the gifts of an artist, to articulate and demonstrate a picture of what can be, a picture that all can participate in creating.

Our modern plight: we rationalize and formulate instead of imagining. We make decisions with such objectivity, we create a culture of reductionism and deduction. Truth & knowledge (the tools of a leader’s trade) have become universal and generic. Leadership becomes the right application of technique and models instead of a desire to be imaginative and follow the spirit of innovation and creativity.

Let your imagination run wild.

These posts were originally broadcast in a radio series, in 2009. If you are interested in talking more about leadership or you’d like me to speak with your team about maximizing their leadership skills – just get in touch. Tim Keel wrote a book called Intuitive Leadership where he agrees that imagination is critical to leadership, read it.

What do you think?