A man who has mentored me in leadership once told a story I want to recount to you now. He said that when he was a boy he attended a small, rural elementary school. It was a pretty simple school and all of the children in his class were from lower income families.
The teacher, though, was one of those people who changes lives. I hope you’ve had one like her. I have. It seems that once a week the class had a “Dream Day.” They would circle up the chairs and each student would share their most cherished dream for their lives.
Well, my mentor remembers one little boy saying that he wanted to be an astronaut. Now, the teacher responded as though this was a possibility and that it might happen the next day. She exclaimed and drew this little boy out and cheered him on. My mentor remembers thinking, “If Tommy Jenkins ever becomes an astronaut it will be a miracle!”
Still, every week, the class dreamed together. As far as my mentor knew, none of those children ever did exactly what they dreamed aloud in that circle. The important thing, though, is that they were encouraged to dream, that they were taken seriously when they did, and that they were told they should always keep working toward their dreams.
My mentor did. He is internationally famous now and he looks back at that circle of chairs in his elementary school as the birthplace of much that he has become.
Now, I doubt that I have to encourage you to dream. You are a leader and so you probably have dreams enough to keep us all busy for the rest of our lives. My question for you, though, is do you know about the dreams of those around you? Do you give their dreams space? Do you care? Do you encourage? Do you make dreams a fuel without making dreams a master, to paraphrase Kipling?
You see, most leaders work to get others to buy into their dreams. They have a vision and they want everyone else—those they employ, those they ask to invest, even their own families—to sacrifice for their dream. Yet the best leaders enable the dreams of others. This is the best focus of leadership. This is the best focus of coaching. This is the best focus of marketing, frankly. This is the path to a fulfilling, meaningful career. What do those around you dream of for their lives and how can you enable them to fulfill their noble dreams?
I like to say it this way. You’ve heard it before: You have a destiny, and your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others.
Here’s your assignment: Ask about dreams. Give time to dreams. Learn the dreams of those you lead. Make it possible for them to pursue their dreams within the range of connection you have to their lives. Be the biggest dream cheerleader they know. All that you lead, and all whom you lead, will be better for it.