For more than forty years the idea of a personal, relational, and organizational ‘Vision’ has been in vogue. Yet, few individuals, relationships, and organizations have emerged a vision and for those who have espoused a vision, even fewer have actually lived into the vision. I am thinking of a center dedicated to leadership development; it was founded in 1964. For more than thirty years it espoused and embraced a powerful vision. Then, with the coming of the third generation of Board Members, the organization began to flounder because it had ‘lost’ its vision. It is still floundering. For many individuals, relationships and organizations ‘Vision’ is a Wave, not a Deep Current.
For Greenleaf, Vision was a Deep Current. For him a Vision was a Big Dream, a Big Goal – one that the person, the relationship, and/or the organization embraced and lived into. A Vision is always evolving and hence is never ‘attainable.’
Greenleaf writes about ‘Liberating Visions.’ He notes that they are ‘rare’ partly because we seek stability and stability is not truly possible because change is the norm (and as we so well know, the rate of change continues to accelerate; it washes over us like a tsunami). Greenleaf notes that this ‘mixture of traditional and changing is an important aspect of the human dilemma.’ Liberating Visions are also difficult to live into (Greenleaf’s says ‘they are difficult to deliver’).
Because we value stability (and this is not a ‘bad’ thing to do), and because ‘change’ tends to raise our anxiety, most of us seek to engage change with a minimum of threat. The paradox is that because the rate of change continues to increase we are, in many ways, not in ‘control’ – we tend to be more reactive than responsive as we seek to remain ‘stable.’
For Greenleaf, Vision provides the direction and, hopefully, the motivation to embrace the journey. He does remind us that one reason we struggle with living into a Vision (a Big Dream, a Big Goal) is that we humans value ‘order’ and ‘stability.’ When we become anxious – and rapid change elevates our anxiety as do Big Dreams – we respond by seeking ‘order’ and ‘stability.’
Greenleaf reminds us of the importance of Vision when he quotes Proverbs 29:18 – ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ Individuals, relationships and organizations that have not emerged and embraced a Vision (as Greenleaf defines the concept) will, over time, ‘perish.’ How many organizations no longer exist today because they did not emerge and embrace a powerful Vision? Too many, I think.
I will conclude this entry with Greenleaf’s words: . . .there has been a failure to give sufficiently powerful liberating visions. This kind of deprivation has been the common lot of humankind from the earliest times. And because of that, the threat of perishing is always with us.