There is a lot of hype in the leadership literature about planning for the future. I say hype because it’s an exaggerated enthusiasm about anything future… as though by merely talking about the future and pushing others toward the future we are doing something inherently good and noble. Personally, I think the future is overrated… It’s no more important than the past or the present.
The future evangelists love to run roughshod over the stupid masses who just don’t get it. A new CEO comes in and wants to immediately impose the latest productivity assessment system, new innovative organizational structures, and a leadership training track that has all the bells and whistles, all in the name of “getting in step with the future.”
It doesn’t matter that a lot of people are left feeling like their opinions don’t count. After all, they’re just foot draggers. They are the resistant. Isn’t it convenient the way we categorize people? They’re no longer free thinking human beings with concerns and aspirations of their own. They’re just resisters who need to get in line with my vision of the future.
Our world is seeing a growing number of little dictators trying to force people to do what they would not otherwise do. Why? Because these “leaders” know best; they’re the elite, the wise ones. They know the latest sociological theories and have discovered the laws of history. They know what the future holds.
The others are just sheep; they’ll follow along like dumb animals. Those who don’t…Well… they need to be nudged in the right direction and they’ll eventually get with the program. Or they’ll be discarded. After all, you can’t have a bunch of negative resisters driving the strategic direction of the company or the nation. Right?
There is a growing lust in the western world for power to force compliance. In the political realm this trend is progressing with alarming speed. We don’t trust the inherent wisdom of people anymore. Increasingly, I see people buying into the idea that decision power needs to be concentrated into the hands of an elite cadre of bureaucrats.
This is a parody of true leadership. The influence of sheer power is the weakest of all types of influence. I would even say that it is not leadership at all.
If you want to be my leader… inspire me. Set my imagination aflame with great and worthy ideas. Don’t give me the tired clichés of the ideological wonderlands of an already antiquated future. Don’t use me to build your little empire. Speak to me about the here and now; show me how to rise above my limitations to discover the winner inside me.
Have you ever noticed how many vices are associated with the future? Lust looks at a future rendezvous with someone who is not your spouse. Fear looks at future catastrophes that might fall on your head. Greed looks to the future life of luxury you could have if you could just get enough money. Hatred looks to the future ways you can destroy your enemy.
Many of the virtues on the other hand are focused on the past and present. Gratitude looks to the past at all that we have that we don’t deserve. Love looks to the here and now, at the people with whom we are in contact on a daily basis. It gives full value to these encounters; it doesn’t look at people as stepping stones toward our desired future.
Too much focus on the future is at the heart of much evil. The desire to ramrod our agenda down people’s throats because we know better is the spirit of tyranny.
That’s not leadership.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.