Look around you. Everything man-made that you see began in someone’s imagination. Everything. A leader may have no greater power than the power of imagination. You can’t truly lead without imagination.
Imagination is the one attribute that sets apart human beings from every other creature on planet Earth. Bacteria, plants and animals have languages and can communicate complex information. Other animals can solve problems. Other animals create and use tools. Only human beings can imagine something that doesn’t exist at all, then work towards creating it. I believe that human beings are created in the image of God.
I highly recommend you exercise your imagination in order to improve your leadership skills.
Set aside 30 minutes to be alone. No computer or smartphone, sorry – just a pad of paper and pen. Now, imagine yourself or your organization 6 months from now. What will be true? What is going on? What will you and others experience, feel, and see? How will you interact with others? How will they interact with you? Where are you? What is the rhythm of events going on? What will no longer happen that happens now? How are things different? What is the same?
There are no wrong answers. Just let your imagination go, and write down any insights that come to mind. Set aside time for this regularly. You can choose what you share from your imagination, and what you don’t share.
One caution: You must sanctify your imagination. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8
Over time, with practice, imagine farther out: 12, 18, 24 months. If there is technology involved, it is difficult to go beyond 2 years because things change so rapidly. But for people situations, you can imagine what could be true 3-5 years from now. Too many people quit at this stage. It is not enough to imagine a possible future. Leadership is about connecting your current state to that possible future. Go through the who/what/when/where/why/how process to develop plans to move towards a desired direction.
One of the primary reasons leaders need to work at imagining the future is because otherwise, you are condemned to the crisis-to-crisis rut of today’s problems, and working on other people’s agendas.
Take the risk and be a leader with a strong imagination. I think you will surprise yourself with how powerful your imagination can be.