How does a leader maintain focus on their vision when they are encountering a lot of feedback, outside noise, that is suggesting they are foolish, or on the wrong path, or just makes them doubt their convictions and skills to succeed?
I was having this conversation with a brilliant professor who is attempting to operate differently in an organizational system that is static and steeped in the tradition of the 'way things are done around here'.
Her dilemma is, "Can I truly be successful here? Can I influence a new way of thinking and behaving within our leadership team? Can I achieve the vision of what I want to create for my students and the impact I want to have in the world?"
This same conversation came up with a couple of young entrepreneurs who started their business with a vision of offering "active physiotherapy" to promote a quick return to health and also a focus on prevention of further injury.
They heard things like, "You need to accept any clients, you just need people coming in the door." and "You're starting a business, you need to bring in money from whatever source you can."
They struggled with the 'critic's voice' vs. their vision about working with only those clients who are excited about 'active treatment' and turning those away who did not fit that vision.
Whether an entrepreneur or part of a larger organization there are similar struggles when it comes to balancing your vision for success with the external feedback you receive from the outside world about what your vision 'should' be and what success looks like for you.
The Professor and I were discussing a book she recently read about Beethoven. It details how the pressure to conform his music to what was 'popular' and 'promotable' for the times left him struggling to stay true to his own vision for the music he wanted to make.
Beethoven believed that his music must be, above all, a vehicle for self expression, unfettered by the old rules (or critics).
He had to reinvent himself three times due to various circumstances including his gradual hearing loss, and yet his commitment to his vision while being adaptable and creative is what gave us the extraordinary music we still enjoy today.
"Once again, Beethoven’s strategy seems relevant today. Fearing that his limitations [progressive hearing loss] would be exposed and destroy him, he revised his mission statement, in effect, and put rule-breaking at its core...
Beethoven bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated the Classical style, believing completely that its rules, rituals, and traditions were only useful up to the point that they served the expressive context.
Beyond that, he reserved the right to do exactly what he pleased.
In the process, Beethoven created a body of work, structurally sound but expressively free, that inspires to this day a model of artistic responsibility and innovation."
There are many examples today of highly creative people who have bucked the old structure and forged a new path to success...
The common denominator is that they had a strong vision for the impact they wanted to have in the world and pursued that relentlessly, despite the critics.
How true are you to your own vision for success?
1. What's your vision for success?
2. Are you operating in a way that is moving you toward that vision?
3. What 'critique' (either your own or from outside) is standing in the way of where you want to be?
"...Beethoven translated his experience into action, not by writing sour letters to the editor or by yelling at the neighbor’s kids, but by composing music that universalized both his problems and solutions.
His problems are well known; his solutions, always, grew out of an instinct and ability to rewrite the rulebook when environmental and personal issues threatened to crush him."
How are you staying true to your vision while rewriting your rulebook?
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