Friday, October 26, 2012

Here Come the Langoliers

Several decades ago an obscure author named Steven King came out with a book called, "The Langoliers".  As a quick summary, the premise of the book is that all of creation is built by hand, minute by minute.  As each minute expires, life moves out of that block of time into the next.  The minute, now used up and stale, cannot be allowed to continue a useless existence.  That's where the Langoliers come in.  I remember them described as being similar to a demonic, metallic Pacman with large gnashing teeth.  The Langoliers sole job was to come along and destroy, or "eat" the minutes that had already been used up and left behind.  In other words, their job was to constantly destroy that portion of creation that no longer had a use.  Of course, being a Steven King story, if you read it you would come to the same conclusion that I did, which is that nobody wants to meet a Langolier firsthand.

If you read the magazines, books, and white papers about leadership you'll likely come across a term again-and-again.  To paraphrase, "If you want to be a great leader then you must have vision!"

So what does that mean?

Having vision means to see how thing could be, not how they are today.  The wisdom imparted to us is that great leaders are that way because they can identify ways to improve and then move the organization from Point A (current state) to Point B (the new, better state).

For the record, I completely agree with the belief that vision is an absolutely critical component found in great leaders.  But having vision comes at a high cost to the individual who has it.  In fact, the price is so high that many people who could display vision never actually do.

"That's crazy!", you might say.  That would just as silly as if Clark Kent never took off his suit and glasses and became Superman.  So why exactly would someone who is blessed with the gift of vision keep it hidden?  The answer may surprise you.

Consider that there are two types of energy: Potential and Kinetic.  Imagine potential energy as a boulder that sits atop the edge of hill, just waiting to roll over the edge.  Now think of kinetic energy as that boulder actually in motion as it gathers speed barreling down the hill.  Vision in and of itself is like potential energy.  It represents what could be but not what "is".  In order to extract value from that boulder sitting on the edge, someone must actually push it on over.  That particular action has huge significance because it turns vision into something dangerous - CREATION.

People who engage in the act of creation encounter what I jokingly refer to as Newton's 3rd Law of (Business) Motion.  Inevitably, a person who creates will always find someone or more than one who will oppose them.  I don't know why it works out this way, but those who create invariably attract others who will want to destroy what it is they build.  There is an interesting way to look at what I just said.  Whenever a person tries to do something new, people around them gather into one of three camps.  About 15% of those people hate the person and/or creation, 70% don't really care unless they are directly affected, and 15% of the people become "true believers".

Several decades ago an obscure author named Steven King came out with a book called, "The Langoliers".  As a quick summary, the premise of the book is that all of creation is built by hand, minute by minute.  As each minute expires, life moves out of that block of time into the next.  The minute, now used up and stale, cannot be allowed to continue a useless existence.  That's where the Langoliers come in.  I remember them described as being similar to a demonic, metallic Pacman with large gnashing teeth.  The Langoliers sole job was to come along and destroy, or "eat" the minutes that had already been eaten and left behind.  In other words, their job was to constantly destroy that portion of creation that no longer had a use.  Of course, being a Steven King story, if you read it you would come to the same conclusion that I did, which is that nobody wants to meet a Langolier firsthand.

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