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Leaders Conceptualize

Leaders Conceptualize

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. Two weeks ago, our Adult Leadership Class focused on Education and the importance of conceptualizing ‘big dreams’ for followers. Conceptualization is one of 10 characteristics Robert K. Greenleaf stresses as essential to being an effective servant leader.
Larry Spears defines conceptualization as such: “Servant leaders seek to nurture their abilities to dream great dreams. The ability to look at a problem or an organization from a conceptualizing perspective means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities. For many leaders, this is a characteristic that requires discipline and practice. The traditional leader is consumed by the need to achieve short-term operational goals. The leader who wishes to also be a servant leader must stretch his or her thinking to encompass broader-based conceptual thinking. Within organizations, conceptualization is, by its very nature, a key role of boards of trustees or directors. blog 64Unfortunately, boards can sometimes become involved in the day-to-day operations – something that should be discouraged – and, thus, fail to provide the visionary concept for an institution. Trustees need to be mostly conceptual in their orientation, staffs need to be mostly operational in their perspective, and the most effective executive leaders probably need to develop both perspectives within themselves. Servant leaders are called to seek a delicate balance between conceptual thinking and a day-to-day operational approach.”
Why is conceptualization important to leadership? It is the one characteristic that makes a leader’s foresight enduring. Vision and awareness help a servant leader chart the right course, but without conceptualization, leaders are not able to build the architecture to sustain the forward momentum and build a legacy that leaves their organization better than they found it.
This week, we as a nation pause to celebrate Presidents’ Day, which was originally meant to celebrate Washington’s birthday, then later was expanded to include Lincoln’s birthday. Presidents have an incredible load on their shoulders and always have. Forty four Presidents have served in office. Looking back, those considered the most successful are those who were able to have big dreams and build processes that sustained their dreams.
President Washington himself left the biggest legacy of all, turning down a third term putting to rest any fears of another monarchy. President Jefferson conceptualized a Lewis and Clark expedition after making America’s biggest purchase with the Louisiana Purchase. President Arthur envisioned a civil service system to create a means for government to serve its citizen staying above politics. President Teddy Roosevelt saw the need to protect our wildernesses and created the national park system which has preserved for generations beautiful areas of this country for all to enjoy. President Franklin Roosevelt believed in a New Deal for the American people and used four terms to take this conceptualization and make it a reality, overcoming the depths of the Great Depression and World War II in the process. President Kennedy saw a moonshot as just what America needed and true to his words, he left a legacy heralding one of America’s most visible scientific advancements.
All Presidents left lasting achievements, but the ones remembered best are the ones who built legacies that outlived their brief time in office. All leaders need to dream big dreams and the best dreams are those that come true. By definition, leaders should leave their organization in better shape. Processes ensure those big dreams become reality.
Most local leaders certainly do not leave legacies as big as the Louisiana Purchase, but the point that Greenleaf is making is apt. Effective leadership is finding that delicate balance between the foresight required for bold moves and the nuts and bolts of the gritty day-to-day operations. That connective tissue between the two is where servant leadership can leave a permanent mark of moving an organization forward by serving first, honoring and enabling the followers to succeed.
This month, Leadership Spokane celebrates our Presidents. We also celebrate education and we hold up those leaders who conceptualize and bring meat to the bone of “serving others!”
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney