My understanding of my leadership has expanded throughout the Fellowship. Several years ago, I read an interview with an inventor where he described his process of moving from fantasy, to a dream, to a plan, and then to his invention. During the Fellowship, I've been working through the painful process of sorting out my leadership fantasies, dreams, and plans.
Fantasies are fun, exciting, and full of potential. The only trouble is that fantasies don't go anywhere. When I think about my leadership the fantasies have often enticed me. Those fantasies involve becoming a perfect leader with no weaknesses. In those fantasies, the visions I have for communities come true without any effort. Each email I send is impactful and leads to enormous positive changes in peoples lives. Every first draft of a strategy, vision, or position paper is clearly articulated in beautiful prose. I am an effective manager and implementer of everything. All my choices are made with confidence and efficiency. Best of all, this fantastic fantasy comes about instantly after a nights sleep like it would in a movie. But, fantasies never go beyond my brain.
Fantasies are great, but they are the nemesis in my leadership journey. Fantasies are a distraction that needs to be managed. Dreams, on the other hand, are fantasies that have been tested against reality. Dreams are achievable. I can dream about how a project might go. I can dream about the great outcome in my community and can share that dream with others. Dreams can be articulated and shared, but need something more to become a reality.
Throughout the Fellowship I've learned to see that beauty and challenges involved in creating a real plan. I hate plans. They are rigid, precise, and no fun at all. Plans mean choosing what to do and what not to do. Having a plan means closing doors and limiting possibilities. They also take discipline, patience, and persistence to create and implement. All of that is no fun. However, plans, not dreams change the world.
My approach to leadership has sometimes been between fantasies and dreams. This type of approach is exciting, and it's easy because there are so many possibilities and doors to keep open. The options abound. If things get hard, not to worry we can adapt. This orientation on leading has plenty of upsides. This type of openness to adaptation can mean that it's easy to drop failed strategies and try something more productive. A dream can be enough in situations with lots of uncertainty, so why not try a few things and change the dream as we go.
Lately, I've had to face the fact that this type of leadership is more of a bug than a feature to my growth. There could be nothing more maladaptive than a "go with the flow" attitude when trying to propose a doctoral dissertation. A doctoral dissertation proposal requires extreme clarity of the purpose, plan, and procedures about the project being undertaken. This level of detail and precision is something is new to me. And for a "go with the flow" person is excruciating.
As I think about my leadership journey, my most significant changes have come from coming to terms with the what it takes for me convert fantasies to actions. I'm in awe of people with this skill. For a laid back guy like me, when I see the work of detailed thinkers and precise planners, it's like watching a magic show. But, it's not magic; it's practice and discipline in action.
I've been working to build the habits needed to be more precise in my leadership. That has meant slowing down. Precision takes time and disciplined effort to achieve. Rushing my development is counterproductive. I've had to eradicate my fantasy that because I received this fellowship, I would automagicaly become a great leader overnight. The work of becoming a leader that's skilled at providing clarity and motivating others will take far longer than the two years of this fellowship. I'm learning, slowly, to find comfort in the long road I have ahead. There is plenty of time to do things correctly, think clearly, and communicate with all the details.
Self-care is more crucial than ever when taking the long view on my development. For the past month, I've been doing a poor job at self-care as I've focused all of my efforts on one significant project. The fantasy that brute force over a month can accomplish anything met reality. Wreckless brute force doesn't create big, creative, and detailed things, but it does create burnout. Thankfully, I could reflect, take a break, and recognize that the work ahead will take years to do well.