Leaders; dealers in hope…

…today is Martin Luther King day; just remembering this, reminding myself of someone so inspirational and visionary is actually making me feel better. The fact that he had the dream that he had and that he described it in such a meaningful and engaging way is a great reminder that very few of us have ever been truly motivated to action by ten point plans, mission statements and corporate objectives. I watched the video of his “I have a dream speech” on YouTube and it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There is vision, there is passion and there is a clarity of purpose that you will rarely if ever see in an organisational mission or vision statement.

dream-believe-sign-mdYet his dream is not vague or opaque, it is littered with references to specific examples of things he would like to see happen, and places and times that he would like to see them happen in. When he talks and brings his vision of the future to life there is a sense of inevitability about it, he uses the word dream but he sums it up so vividly that he turns it into a future reality to which the only obvious barrier on its journey to fruition is the passage of time, it feels irresistible in its appeal, even logical in its conclusions. He sees the future that is coming and he shares it with us.

Can you imagine the opponents of this dream watching and listening to this speech; their hearts must have sunk as they realised the futility of standing in the way of this untameable vision of the future…the box had been opened, the dream had been revealed and a new horizon had been brought to life.

The message was one of hope, but it was also a message that seemed to understand that hope alone would not change anything, that to stimulate hope without bringing a vision of the future to life, without really knowing where you are going would make him nothing more than a cheerleader (not that being a cheerleader is a bad career choice!). But when your ship is headed for an iceberg or the rocks you don’t need cheerleaders, you need visionary captains. You need people with a strong personal compass with a clear view of the future who can and will deliver.

I once heard a Public Sector leader talk of themselves as a dealer in hope, apparently its a phrase made famous by a humble French Emperor called Napoleon Bonaparte. According to the history books he was about as humble as Darth Vader, who interestingly also served under someone who chose to give themselves the humble and self-deprecating title of Emperor. I listened and enjoyed the talk but I left wishing they had called themselves a dealer in results, in fact I wish they had called themselves a cattle dealer, a car dealer, or any dealer for that matter…just some sort of dealer who dealt in tangible results. The Public Sector has had enough dealers in hope to last a lifetime and everyone with half a memory in the Public Sector is still scratching the scars from the last set of promises that weren’t delivered, the last strategy that everyone dropped everything for, only for it to then be scrapped within a year. In today’s Public Sector dealers in hope are of limited appeal; that’s the domain of politicians, we don’t believe a thing they say…the Public Sector needs leaders with values and vision, who can express that vision in a way we understand and who have the courage to make their vision a reality. Its a tall order, but its no less than taxpayers deserve. Happy Martin Luther King day.



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