Monday, June 26, 2006


I was brought up with a jolt today, hearing my own response to something someone said; it made me realise just how far I’ve slid away from what I once held to be a personal vision, a set of values which would light my way forward in this world of gloomy passages and dark corners.

Ten years ago, if you had asked me what was my vision for the future of leadership in organisations, I’d have had a ready answer. I’d have talked – with shining eyes and urgent voice – about a fundamental shift in values. about workplaces and organisations where personal growth is an equal partner with corporate success; where cooperation rather competition is the order of the day; where individuals matter; where long-term, long-distance principles of sustainability and stewardship outweigh short term monetary gain; where the good of the community and the good of the shareholder are one and the same thing because the shareholders are the community; where conventional business “success” is a by-product of all of these factors, rather than a short-sighted end-product. In short, I’d describe a move towards increased spirituality. I’d have qualified that by saying that such a move would have nothing to do with religion but would come about as leaders became aware of guiding principles which owe more to the yearnings of the human soul in its search for wisdom and righteousness (a great word, unfortunately coloured with overtones of religiosity) than they do to the relentless drive for the profit of the few.

Naive? Idealistic? Undoubtedly. Exciting? Compelling? You bet!

That’s what I would have said ten years ago. Such ideas were just beginning to surface then in the world at large; pockets of shared dreams and purpose and intent were forming, at least in thought and belief, even if they were at that time barely taking tangible form, and I wanted oh-so-much to be a part of it; to watch the seeds that were being sown germinate, to be one of those who would nurture them and see them grow, to play a part in changing the world…

If you’d asked me the same question yesterday – or even this morning – I’d have fumbled and stumbled and struggled to find a coherent thought let alone a coherent word on the subject. Whatever dream I had faded long ago; anything that might have nurtured it had been pushed aside by pressing realities of a workplace in which those ideals I’ve listed above would mostly be met with blank incomprehension. This morning, I hadn’t realised how far my frame of reference had shifted – what once I would have rebelled against and fought to change I‘ve now accepted as the norm, in just the same way as a hideous piece of furniture, walked past every day, loses its capacity to generate a response.

But that was this morning. Something happened to remind me that my frame of reference wasn’t always thus. Create a compelling enough image of what might be, and what is suddenly becomes tarnished and ugly by comparison.

The spark is bright, for the moment, but it is still small and flickering. Surrounded mostly by mediocrity; the image will soon fade again if I don’t take steps to reinforce it…

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