Dreaming: A contemporary leadership model?
It’s business as usual! Or is it?
The power of ‘dreams’ in building long-term value for an organisation is an area left to the select few, it goes way beyond the corporate vision statement to a passionate belief embedded deep into an organisation’s culture and psyche. In doing so, effective ‘dreams’ become ‘this is the way we do things here, even when no one in the organisation is overseeing’. However, these are rare events and only one part of a complex puzzle for senior management and directors.
A psychological perspective of ‘dreams’ was expressed by Freud (1900) who considered dreams “to be the royal road to the unconscious as it is in dreams that the ego’s defences are lowered so that some of the repressed material comes through to awareness, albeit in distorted form. Dreams perform important functions for the unconscious mind and serve as valuable clues to how the unconscious mind operates.” (Mcleod, 2013).
‘Dreams’ within an organisation context can be defined as; A ‘conscious’ creation devoid of ego, that affects the unconscious ‘culture’, inspiring maximum employee involvement and commitment with the aim of delivering increasing levels of stakeholder value.
Consequently, the creation of ‘dreams’ requires encouragement for learning and access to the knowledge spectrum across the entire organisation. This may occur using a variety of knowledge acquisition forms including, tacit, explicit, peripatetic, and heuristic. Therefore, necessitating all-inclusive organisation participation.
How do ‘dreams’ relate to an organisation’s creativity and innovation?
The world renown academic and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is credited with the concept of “Flow”. Which he described as a feeling that occurs when a person achieves an almost effortless and automatic highly focused state of consciousness, because they are doing things they enjoy, thereby developing high levels of intrinsic motivation. In a ‘flow’ state, it is the quality of the experience, even when attempting to overcome difficult, risky and often stretching activities where a person’s capacity to discover novel outcomes flourishes.
Likewise, the role of ‘dreams’ can provide the impetus for a state of ‘flow’ to be achieved. Hence for an organisation to produce effective ‘dreams’ where high levels of people engagement are an imperative, supporting a state of ‘flow’ is fundamental to the delivery of novel and innovative outcomes. However, the achievement of such consciousness requires an organisational culture that is supportive and committed to encouraging relevant behaviours and related values. So what needs to happen?
The value and power of ‘dreams’ are realised when:
- They deliver real economic growth.
- There is no hard sell to gain support. They are compelling and enhance why “I am proud to be associated with this organisation”.
- There is a common and collective belief in the ‘dream’, supported by the influential majority who may ‘feel’ deeply passionate and positively emotional toward its intent, regardless of their position in the organisation.
- They are meaningful to all stakeholders and do not change until they are realised. Hence, ‘dreams’ must be achievable.
- Effective ‘dreams’ drive and reinforce organisational values and behaviours.
- Effective ‘dreams’ support a philosophy and organisational cultural way-of-life that promotes – ‘this is a great place to work’.
- Effective ‘dreams’ support co-created activity, based on collective cognitive insight and learning.
- Effective ‘dreams’ provide a purpose for the organisation’s existence.
- Effective ‘dreams’ are a significant contributor to organisational creativity and innovation.
- Effective ‘dreams’ drive intrinsic motivation.
Collectively these actions potentially generate improved organisation and stakeholder outcomes and performance.
Organisation ‘Dreams’ arenot:
- They are not driven by egocentric leadership, for example, it’s my idea and therefore must be good or, this is the direction set by the board and leadership team and hence you need to adopt it.
- They are not a statement to write and circulate through the organisation without soul or belief, only to be mentioned in strategic frameworks and business plans.
- They are not ’wallpaper’ to be placed around a work environment as a means of justifying communication to employees who lack belief.
- They are not goal orientated statements that are unrealistic and unrealisable within a specified time frame, with the sole purpose of attempting to achieve unrealistic ‘growth’.
Who does this well?
The following summaries are examples from some of the best companies in the world:
- Nova Nordisk – (Danish pharmaceutical business): “I love working at Novo Nordisk because there is a sense of empowerment at every level. Everyone gets credit for what they do, not just leadership,” said Bobby Hunt, a technician on line 52 at Novo Nordisk’s Clayton, N.C. insulin pen manufacturing facility. “The entrepreneurial spirit of the company translates into success for patients. That really makes me proud to work here”(Nova Nordisk, 2012).
- Under Armour – Kevin Plank is quoted “We have a culture of people who feel like they own the company, whether they have equity or not. When they leave at night, they turn the lights off. Not because it’s a rule, but because they want to. They feel like this is their company. And we’ve got a company that understands that perfection is the enemy of innovation.” (Welch, 2016)
- Tesla – Elon Musk on Tesla (Automaker): “The first master plan that I wrote 10 years ago is now in the final stages of completion. It wasn’t all that complicated”… (Musk, 2016).
- Amazon – Jeff Bozos is quoted; ”We never claim that our approach is the right one — just that it’s ours — and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people,” Bezos writes. “Folks who find our approach energising and meaningful” (Kastrenakes, 2016)
Why is the concept of ‘Dreams’ important tobusiness?
For many organisations, maintaining business-as-usual is generally accepted as the safe, low-risk bet. A state where mediocrity thrives. This almost moronic belief signals the potential for a ‘doom’ outcome. We are all well aware we live in a world of daily disruption and profound change, requiring new novel and innovative approaches. The concept of ‘dreams’ provides a basis for leadership teams inclusive of boards to think differently in the way they advance and orchestrate a future. Where all stakeholders can partake in the advancement of an organisation culture delivering novel and innovative outcomes producing meaningful stakeholder value and growth.
After all, isn’t this at the core of effective leadership?