Standing in Possibility

The transformational leader recognizes that transformation does not exist inside of the world we already know.

There is nothing wrong with creating results that you are already reliable to create, or, to optimize and make more efficient the systems that have already proven themselves effective. However, this approach to leadership will not lead to transformation, because no transformation is required to achieve the result.

Increasing your profits by 10% at the end of the year does not demand a whole-scale transformation of the way you and your organization work. It requires tightening up your process and doing what you are already doing better, harder, faster and stronger.

This kind of result is what most humans aim for, most of the time, because it is safe and known.

Transformation is not free — it demands a great deal from us. Consequently, transformation will not “just happen” as we go about life as normal. As long as you can stay inside your zone of comfort and familiarity, you will be unlikely to transform, as it is simply unnecessary.

The transformational leader plays out in the world of possibility, aiming towards results that they do not yet know how to achieve, and may well fail spectacularly in their attempts. They do this, because they recognize that only by declaring and committing themselves to an impossible result will they (and their teams) be called into a transformational experience. Until there is a commitment pulling you into the crucible of transformation, your ego will nimbly and effectively pull you back into the safety of the known.

Impossible Goals

Lately, it’s become vogue for coaches and leaders to talk about having impossible goals. Impossible goals are goals that are out of the realm of possibility — the person declaring these kinds of goals does not know how to achieve them, and is pretty sure it’s not possible. But they declare them anyhow.

This kind of impossible goal is distinct from what a transformational leader works with. The distinction is given in the context for this kind of goal: that it is “impossible”.

When declaring an impossible goal, the end state is already determined by the way you are relating to the goal. It’s impossible — so you’re probably not going to commit too fully to that goal, are you?

I mean, if you know that the goal is impossible, you’re not going to move hell and high water to achieve the goal, nor are you likely to make any large scale changes in the fabric of your life to achieve the goal. What would be the point of doing that? You’d just look stupid. You knew it was impossible from the start, and yet you went all over the place trying to achieve it. Talk about the height of foolishness!

Impossible goals are a machination of the ego — an attempt to capture the way a transformational leader shows up, without having to directly engage with the fear that is a requirement of this work.

Be wary of impossible goals — they lack the underlying commitment that moves the transformational leader, and those they lead, forward into transformation.