I came across this post by Robert E. Quinn recently & had to share it here for the benefit of all.
In the book Timeless Wisdom: Passages for Meditation from the World’s Saints and Sages is a story about an ancient sculptor in India who carves elephants from stone. A king asks the man for the secret of his great artistry. The sculptor explains that once a large stone is secured, he spends a very long time studying the stone. At first he sees nothing, but the rock. Then, over a long period, he begins to feel something. To notice a vague impression, a scarcely discernible outline. As he continues to ponder, with an open eye and an eager heart, the outline intensifies, until the joyful moment when the sculptor sees the elephant inside the rock. At this moment he sees what no other human can see. Only when he sees the outline does he begin the months of chiseling. He is obedient to the revealed outline. The sculptor connects with the elephant inside the stone. He feels the elephant’s desire to come out of the rock and live. With this emotional awareness the sculptor gains an even more intense singleness of purpose. He chips away every bit of rock that is not the elephant. What remains is the elephant (Eswaran, 2008:20). This parable represents the part of leadership that is least understood. Purpose leads to a search for the possible. What do you think it means?
He further responds with an insightful take on the parable. It is insightful in that it expands on a leader’s commitment to a nebulous vision .. and faith in that vision till something more concrete materialises.
The focus is an important component. And the commitment to that focus. I would take it one step further and say that focus is purpose. Purpose leads to a search for the possible. At the beginning there is little hope. Yet the person of purpose knows to continue in the deep concentration and a vague impression emerges. Masterful leaders know to attend to impressions. Openness and attention turn the impression into a vision available to none other. The visionary becomes the particular future’s only representative in the world. Disciplined pursuit of the vision stimulates action learning and eventually transformation. The vision is no longer a concept but a living thing waiting for mortal manifestation. Love of the emerging future leads to still more disciplined effort until that which could not be seen lives in the present. The parable explains how to create a positive organization.
Robert E. Quinn is a Best-selling author, Speaker, Co-Founder of CPOS at University of Michigan, and Thought Partner on Leadership and Change.