How You See the Future Changes Everything!

Success Strategy #2 for Transformational Change Leaders

by Robert S. Tipton

Clairvoyance, self-portrait by Rene Magritte

'Clairvoyance' - self-portrait by Rene Magritte

I just love this painting.

According to the artist, Rene Magritte, this is a self-portrait. I’m sure that was important to him, but that’s secondary to me.

What’s primary to me about the painting is this: in “Clairvoyance” Magritte shows CLEARLY what a transformational change leader “sees” when they look at the future.

“See” the egg. “Paint” the bird. Beautiful. Simple. Powerful. A picture worth 1,000 words.

(BTW — Magritte was a Belgian painter who became famous to modern audiences for his “Man in a Bowler Hat” painting which was featured in the 1999 movie “The Thomas Crown Affair“.)

As you have probably guessed, “Clairvoyance” speaks to me — in a deep and meaningful way. But, I’ve discovered my reaction to the painting and the reaction from many others is not the same. Many people, maybe most, say something like — “Oh. Yeah. Okay. So?” Their responses are NOT like mine.

Instead of “YES! Isn’t that amazing?!?”, I get lukewarm reactions. Definitely not deep. Not meaningful.

Why the difference? Is it me? It it them? Well, “Yes” to both.

A Future Un-envisioned is CERTAIN to be Unrealized

“How” we see the future is an individual thing, and I’m (in general) an optimistic, transformational type of person. I live to see the birds of life in the eggs I’m presented. When I come into a challenging, dysfunctional, low-performance work situation, I long to see the birds take flight. I dream, I believe, I call out the greatness within everyone, I describe a flock of birds, I engender hope.

However, not everyone takes this approach.

Metaphorically speaking, when some (far too many in my opinion) people are asked to envision a different future for themselves, they just see the egg and they can’t, don’t, or won’t see the bird. Their “vision” is limited to only what’s right in front of them. As such, their future will most definitely be unclear, uncertain, and therefore unreal. Unreal. Impossible. Not available.

And as I like to say, “A future un-envisioned is CERTAIN to be unrealized.”

Seeing only what’s right in front of us is a clear indication of a “transactional manager or a transactional doer…” These folks won’t allow themselves to dream, they can’t see beyond today’s problems, and they don’t see the limitless possibilities available to them should the egg be transformed.

They are stuck by their short-sightedness.

Sound familiar? Sound impossible to crack?

“NO!” I say… This is a HUGE opportunity for transformational change leaders (TCLs).

Send in the TCLs!

Have you had a TCL in your personal or professional life — someone who has helped transform your short-sighted vision into something far more powerful? A coach? A parent? A teacher? A boss?

I’ve enjoyed a wonderful working life as a keynote speaker — in part due to a boss I had VERY early in my career. He recognized something in me that I didn’t see myself, and rather than asking me if I’d like to be “on the agenda” and speak (about a topic I knew a fair amount about) at a major technology-related event, he just volunteered me.

But then — rather than giving me “sink or swim” advice — he helped me see the egg in the situation (the “oh-my-god” feelings of dying on stage, or looking like an idiot, or getting pelted with rotten vegetables) and then he helped me transform it into the bird: profound feelings of accomplishment, of excitement, and the joy of discovering something that I truly LOVE to do.

I remember him fondly to this day. Thank you Ross, wherever you might be.

A TCL like my former boss is able to envision a future where the bird emerges from the egg — given the right set of circumstances, nurturing, care, and a long-term view. TCLs are able to envision what “can be possible” — even when there is no visible change in the surface of the egg, they know change is happening “under the covers…”

It’s Time for MORE TCLs

TCLs — now more than ever — need to help others become TCLs. One of my favorite leadership quotes is attributed to Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. Jack reportedly asked a question, “What’s the purpose of leadership?” His answer? “To create more leaders.”

Extending Jack’s quote to TCLs makes me ask this question, “what’s the purpose of a TCL?” Yes — it’s to help others become TCLs, to see inside their eggs, to hear the stories about what’s coming next for their eggs, to begin to envision the “bird in flight” that will be breaking free in the future.

How about you?

What do you “paint” when you see an egg? Are you stuck — maybe only seeing a cynical future where the egg is paired with bacon and hash browns?

Or instead are you able to be patient, to keep your eye on the long-term prize (the bird) even when little visible progress has been shown?

Paint like Magritte — see the egg, paint the bird.

Help others to paint that way too — view today’s situation, and envision a new, better, improved, more excellent one. It’s the transformational thing to do.

For More On Transformational Change Leadership,
Please Check Out These Other Posts from Our Blog:

• Get a Renewed Attitude and Stop ‘Managing’ Change!
• 9 Stages of Transformational Change
• 5 Essential Behaviors of Transformational Change Leaders
• 7 Core Beliefs of Transformational Change Leaders

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John Sileo, President Elect, NSA Colorado Chapter


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