The “Possibility” Law
One of the most admired qualities of leaders is their ability to stand for possibility and to do it consistently. Great leaders possess the ability to generate possibility at times when everyone else has given up. It is as if they are the last beacon of hope. (A leader knows that hope is not a management strategy.) Many times you and I hear people talk about what is possible, yet you wonder if they really stand for what they are saying, or if they are just pretending or playing make-believe for the purpose of self-comfort, saying the right thing to get people off their backs.
Leadership is about standing and generating possibility for no other reason than because it is possible. I have observed leaders over time, and I have noticed that they really, authentically and genuinely know (which is different than “believe”) that everything is possible –and the rest is nonsense. They simply live in a world in which anything and everything is possible. Leaders are naturally ready and willing to unconditionally (with no conditions, that is) stand for it, even though there isn’t any evidence or agreement.
As the poet Wallace Stevens eloquently said, *“After the final no there comes a yes, and on that yes the future world depends”. Leaders can hear “no’s” longer than anyone else without giving up what they see as possible. That is what most expresses and speaks the *essence of leadership for me.
Here are some aspects of the Possibility Law:
- No agreement–Generating and standing for what is possible is mostly done in the face of no agreement. For the most part, it invites the argument –at times, even from you (the leader) –for what is not possible. People first will invalidate and dismiss it because it challenges the status quo, the comfort zone. If there is agreement, it is not a possibility. It is a probability.
- Not personal –You can’t claim ownership of what is possible. It is not yours, to begin with, and never will be. Leaders know that they have a given possibility for the moment, a very brief one. If you try to have it be yours and yours alone, it immediately becomes your personal agenda and invites resistance. If it is not possible for everyone, it is not authentic, and it will fade quickly.
- No “existence”–A possibility disappears the moment it is spoken. In and of itself, there is nothing to perpetuate its existence. A leader’s job is to put structures around it so it won’t fade away. A possibility without a structure for its existence simply disappears.
- Not a quick fix –For a possibility to have the power it can’t be used as a quick fix. A possibility is generated regardless of current circumstances, though it does take them into account. It will include what is so now, but it points to a world that does not yet occur in reality, there is no evidence to point to. Possibilities are not designed to fix anything (I know, human beings want to fix everything…)
- Invented from nothing –Leaders know that they can create possibilities at any moment, and as many as they want. Not because they need them, but simply because they can. “Why?” you ask? “Why not?” they answer. The world of possibility is infinite, not finite; the more you create, the more there are.
A place to live in –When the authentic possibility is present, it calls you and others forth to live into a future not yet real (in the conventional way of speaking). It creates inspiring futures for people to play with so that they are motivated and inspired. The possibility is not a place to come from. It is a place to live in.
You can’t believe in possibilities, for they are not real. They are a creation, the product of a stand, a commitment, intention, imagination and inventiveness that over time manifests itself into reality. A wise man said to me once, “If what you believe in is true, there is no need to believe in it, it is just what is so”.
Leaders do not concern themselves with whether people believe that something is possible or not. They are concerned with whether people can see it, imagine it, and act on it with their eyes open.
At first, it “feels” fake or out-of-place. “Fake it until you make it!” we say. If that is what it takes to translate a possibility into reality, who cares how you get there (as long as, you are doing it legally, morally and ethically).
Remember, the world is waiting for what is next. If you don’t invent what is possible, someone else will.