The writer of Proverbs says: Where there is no vision, the people perish. Over the years I have known this to be true—on the athletic field, in the education system, and certainly in the church. Where the future is seen, spoken of and stepped out on, then most anything is possible. I am more and more convinced that our families, workplaces, social circles and churches need us to have this kind of foresight—the ability to picture the possible. Now to be sure it will not be enough to only speak of our vision. We must live it. I think I first learned this lesson on leadership from my mom.
For those of you who know something of my family tree you might be surprised. After all, my father was the preacher—a purveyor of words, a sermon-deliverer, a leader in the church. Among his many aphorisms, one stands out: More is caught than taught! I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard him say it. I know he believed it—that’s why he married my mom.
You know, it’s not hard to find faults and point out glaring problems. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we? Whether it is in ourselves or others, we are all experts on weaknesses. Mothers, on the other hand, don’t major on such. Instead they see clearly the strengths, even if they lie dormant and neglected. What I learned most from my mom was this belief and trust in the future, especially in me.
It takes a special kind of character to discern the good, to celebrate strengths, to draw out the positive. That may be the most difficult when it comes to discovering our own strengths. Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents—much less to build our lives around them. We tend to get stuck on the things we can’t do, what we don’t have—failing to focus on a future of possibility and potential.
A few years back I participated in an internet-based, Strengths-Finder Profile, the product of a 25-year, multi-million dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. The program introduced 34 dominant “themes” with thousands of possible combinations, and reveals how they can best be translated into personal and career success. Marcus Buckingham, author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, offered powerful insight on how you and I, work teams, and organizations can leverage them for powerful results in our own personal development, for success as a manager/leader, and for overall organizational health.
As a result, I am able to identify certain strengths that make me who I am. Such themes as learner, ideator, maximizer, and achiever surfaced as new descriptors of lessons learned at a much earlier age. Looking back now, I see how my mom stirred up these God-given ingredients within me. She saw them first. With a kiss on the forehead, a quick and ready smile, and a patient hand she helped me see them as well.