I am not a big fan of quoting famous people who are “overquoted”. I tend to find it very empty and cliché. However, why would I rewrite it, if it is very clear and concise about what it says?
That being said, I would love to quote Albert Einstein who once said:
‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”
It talks about the difference between storing information as opposed to being able to use the information to create something that has never been done before.
The intelligence of imagination
The essential aspect for someone to be able to create is to imagine that things could be different than what they are at first. Not being limited by circumstances of the moment, but seeing further and beyond what is there, thinking what could be, and being able to understand which circumstances need to be changed to reach this vision you are trying to create.
Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, writes in his book “Intelligence is the ability to apprehend and perceive what is” and “imagination is the ability to perceive what could be”.
In this context intelligence of imagination could be understood as the ability to adapt knowledge to different contexts and to be flexible, allowing us to create instead of just to replicate.
Why every great leader has a vision
The role of a leader is to set the path and to create the right environment and conditions that support people moving towards a goal or a destination.
Because of this, people expect leaders to see further, beyond what is possible at any given moment. Being able to redefine structures and change direction when needed.
Everyone can work with what has been done before, but leaders need to be able to inspire people to go to a place that is still to be built. This is what we call vision!
A vision is a scenario in which someone pictures things being better or being done differently than what they are at that moment, in a way that benefits others! We are not just talking about “daydreaming” but believing that the path to making our vision come true is possible, and being brave enough to ask yourself the hard questions:
- What does it take to achieve this vision?
- What knowledge and skills are missing that could block the path to achieving this vision?
- Who could help and contribute to make it come true?
- What needs to change to make it possible?
When you start to dig into these questions, you start to move towards changing and redefining structures to reach different results.
The role of a leader is not just to manage people – this is the role of a manager – but it is to inspire them to work towards a vision, making them believe that it can come true. Leaders should help others to see marvelous opportunities and guide their perceptions to see beyond what already exists.
If you can’t imagine, then you are not a leader but a manager.
And that is ok too. But for top-level leadership (c-levels) it is expected of them to design new paths for the future of their companies. To have success in your role as a leader it is key to take your imagination skills very seriously.
Managing is perceiving what is wrong, from a premise that you have in your mind about what is right, and then trying to “fix” it by making it more like what you believe to be correct. While good leadership imagines new scenarios that don’t currently exist or don’t follow an existing blueprint. Leaders are guided by a feeling that
Leaders are compelled to push forward into the unknown, creating new systems to benefit their companies because they have this feeling that not doing so would be madness.
Visions come from feeling the spirit of the time, the zeitgeist, collecting context, influences, and information, and putting work into refining these things to turn the “what could be” into “what is now”.
The intelligence of imagination also includes being comfortable with not knowing and open to learning and growing. You start by acknowledging the current situation and the vision in your mind. It requires humbleness to acknowledge that you don’t know the journey to get there, and openness to learning and failing while creating the path that will take you there.
While managers need a structure to hold on to, leaders are comfortable with the uncertainty of what comes next.
Hesh Kestin, a journalist foreign correspondent and novelist says that people who see “what is” are valuable, but those who see “what might be”, are even more valuable.
Conclusion and examples
There are companies and brands well known for making and turning the once called, “crazy ideas” into daily necessities for millions of people. And I am pretty sure you already have some names in your mind that fit this description.
I don’t want to name them here or use examples here because it will send a message that “you should try to be more like them”. What I want to bring here, is for you to be more like you. Own your vision that promotes change and serves others. Work to build bridges and create paths to make your vision come true.
What is your perspective on this topic? Share your insights in the comments 🙂