The mantra of anyone, who claims for him/herself the role of leader, ought to be “I have a dream”. The followers have to be assured that there is sun behind the clouds and that each cloud has a silver lining. No, wonder that Martin Luther King Jr had masses rallying around him, when he proclaimed, “I have a dream”. All leaders must dream, while being awake and when in full possession of all their faculties.
I have always looked at the role of the CEO/manager in a corporate entity and even at the role of the politician who holds the principal office of responsibility of the country as “sellers of dreams” and no more. Some deliver on their dreams, some fail to do so. Dreams have to be realistic, practically possible and measurable. Dreams of Utopia lead to nightmares.
Dreaming is another name for planning by the leader/manager that permits opening of new vistas of possibilities. The ability to see, what is beyond from current obscurity, a possibility of a new dawn, is the hallmark of a good leader. Inaction is another word that describes the conversion of dreams into desires.
The need for obstinate pursuance of your dreams, as a leader, is best described by Friedrich Nietzsche as: “Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself. There are to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demigods, which would carry you across this river, but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you; where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it”.
From this, I deduce that it is important for the leader to pursue his dreams with a singular mind set and he/she should be wary not to be beguiled by impediments on the pathway or by the negatively obscured detractors, whose slogan is: “it is not possible”. All strategies and every single organisational input must be driven towards the focused objective of realising the dream.
Some of us confuse between “dreams and desires”. They are not synonymous, but mutually exclusive in meaning and impact. There must exist in the mind of the leader a clear and fine distinction between dreams and desires. A dream has more sublimity to its use, while desire suggests a bit of selfishness or lust. Dreams are all about future goals in life, while desire, in acclaimed author Neil Gaiman’s words, “is a creature of the moment”. Dreams have larger canvas and desire is limited by its immediate objectives; of being satiated, now and here.
Desire’s realisation is largely dependent on external stimuli and circumstances; dreams on the contrary are internally generated. Desire is a craving, a longing, a yearning, while dreams are more about aspirations, ambitions, and hope.
Dreaming is an absolute necessity for leaders/managers. For sure, indulging in it helps discovery of the self and it also helps as the best route to know yourself, while examining your dreams. Good leaders develop skills to know how others see them. The dark areas are known to the outside world, while we as individuals remain oblivious of it. Self-indulging deception to make obscure our weakness is a great human ability. We tend to remain in denial, while the process of dreaming unveils to us what we really are. There is never a fraudulent representation of talent to one’s own self, because dreams do not take the route of falsehood.
No leader can afford to be a hermit or an Alaskan Eskimo. They must have requisite capability to derive from their “dreams” the basic steps to find their practical realisation. As Confucius puts it, “By three methods we may learn wisdom; first by reflection, which is the noblest; second by imitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”. It therefore follows that dreams must pass the test of “reflection”, “intimation” and “experience”, before they can find their way to be translated into practical achievement.
Leaders, most of them dream and act too. If there is no dream to pursue then what is left in life to accomplish? Managers, who have no dreams to sell, are invariably lost in the maze of time and history. Those managers, who dare to dream, while being awake at the job get to be more cognisant of the market potential. Amongst, the first seven Mughal emperors, Shahjahan is the most remembered and re-called, because he dreamt of the “Taj Mahal”, which his labourers delivered to him. His faith of how it will be a marvel human endeavor for centuries, was shared by those who built it. A manager can be the dreamer! While his team chases the dreams to their fruition.
Dream merchants rely heavily on intuition and instinctive habits, rather than logic and rationale. Faith in your dreams is the first step towards its realisation. The slogan of “Naya Pakistan” is also a dream of a better Pakistan. It remains to be seen, whether it is an elusive dream or will it pan out as a successful cliché; it all depends upon how resolutely the machinery is employed towards its accomplishment. If Iqbal dreamt of a “Muslim homeland”, it was the political and statesmanly craftsmanship of Jinnah, that delivered the dream -- Pakistan. The result of this analogy is that dreamers need a team of executors; without it dreams will remain, a mere desire!
The killer gases and clouds, that enshroud the dream, must be cleared off quickly. A clear sight of the goal, will help to kick the ball through the goalposts; a leader must therefore remain wary of all those who will work overtime to create more haze around the leaders’ dream.
As managers, learn about yourself, what already others know about you. This exercise will give credence to your dreams that you would share with your teammates. Those who supervise must temper their dreams with heavy doses of reality. The non-acceptance of ground conditions leads towards arrogance. Nothing hurts a manager more than a bloated sense of overconfidence. Dreams must not either be emerging out of cocksureness or even be ever anchored in the seas of overconfidence. We have as a Nation, recently witnessed what has become of those who proudly and arrogantly had remarked, “Uski Majal, Ke Woh...” (how dare, he thinks, he can….)!
Our thoughts, habits, aptitudes, skills, talents and capabilities are the bedrock from where stem our dreams. If they lack quality, the emerging dreams, will be dented too and will only border at best on their frivolity of being pursued.
Leaders dream and feel the responsibility that emerges out of this process. Leaders are what their dreams are! And such leaders must be feared too, for they will most likely unleash all their powers to achieve, what is considered as truth and correct. Leaders in posterity and by history are judged by the enormity of their dreams. Abraham Lincoln dreamt to abolish slavery. He did. He is remembered. Dreaming leaders, including our own Imran Khan, are mostly possessed. They pursue their objectives with clenched teeth; nothing derails them. They are persistent and consistent. They are notably obstinate.
Concluding this piece, I would like to quote possibly the best description of what dreams are to leaders, from a past leader, who was no less than the President of USA, Woodrow Wilson, who had said, “We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and perfect them, nurse them through bad days till they bring them to sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true”.
As a compatriot to the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, I hope his dreams come true!
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist