Most of the universe is invisible, not because we don’t have a way to get there or see that far. Most of the universe is invisible because it is composed primarily of invisible “dark matter.” According to CERN, dark matter outweighs visible matter by roughly six to one! What we see using normal methods of observation interacts with electromagnetic forces, meaning it absorbs, reflects, or produces light. Dark matter, though, does not interact with electromagnetic forces. How, then, do we know that dark matter exists and that most of the universe is made of it? CERN says its existence is inferred from the observation of gravitational forces.
(For more on dark matter see this interesting article from CERN.)
It’s easy to see what you can see. Right now, directly in front of my eyes, I see my computer screen. Peripherally, I see my hands on the keyboard, a cup of coffee, my phone, and tables and chairs in the restaurant where I sit. We can also see what we don’t see. Weather is a good example. I can’t see cold temperatures, but I see people wearing coats and hats. I can’t see wind, but I do see leaves swirling around on the ground. Other examples of seeing what can’t be seen include emotions (love, anger, frustration, sadness, and more), hunger, someone’s financial condition, and attitudes.
The visible: Desks. Computers. Inventory. Buildings. Vehicles.
The invisible: Emotions. Relationships. Attitudes. Potential.
As a leader, which is more important to you? The visible or the invisible?
I know which is easier to deal with. I know there are days when I think, “You know, I really wish I could just focus on repairing widgets right now and not deal with Tom’s attitude.”
Which, though, is more relevant to the long-term health and success of your organization? The visible or the invisible?
It’s the invisible, of course:
- Things that aren’t said. The inner dialogue.
- How people feel about a decision and their resulting commitment or lack of commitment.
- The chemistry between you and your team members.
- The chemistry among your team members.
- Emotional maturity.
- People’s leadership capacity.
Think back on your past few days at work. Pick a significant situation, conversation, or event. It could be positive or negative. It might have been one of your successes or a failure. It doesn’t matter. Pick one.
Catalogue what was directly and objectively observable in that situation. Time and date. People and things involved. Sequence of events. Money expended or acquired. Anything tangible and objective.
Now catalogue everything that was only indirectly observable or intangible. Emotions. Attitudes. Hopes. Values. Beliefs. Assumptions.
Which of those two lists was more impactful on what happened? The visible or the invisible?
Is it the visible or the invisible that is more strategic in your leadership responsibility to build and expand the leadership capacity of your team and organization?
Just like dark matter, the invisible is also six times (or whatever) more weighty than the visible. As a leader you must carefully consider the visible, because it really does matter. Do not, though, lose sight of the invisible.
Learning to observe the invisible may be one of the most important skills of leadership.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.