The news isn’t always uplifting: declining home price growth, sinking big business profits, and rising gas prices can make for an economy that is less than reassuring. How can we even start to fix it? According to Nancy Adler there is hope if we allow our passions to lead us to creative solutions and we strive towards a sense of beauty in our leadership.
“These times are riven with anxiety and uncertainty” asserts John O’Donohue.1 “In the hearts of people some natural ease has been broken. . . . Our trust in the future has lost its innocence. We know now that anything can happen. . . . The traditional structures of shelter are shaking, their foundations revealed to be no longer stone but sand. We are suddenly thrown back on ourselves. At first, it sounds completely naïve to suggest that now might be the time to invoke beauty. Yet this is exactly what . . . [we claim]. Why? Because there is nowhere else to turn and we are desperate; furthermore, it is because we have so disastrously neglected the Beautiful that we now find ourselves in such a terrible crisis.”2
Twenty-first century society yearns for a leadership of possibility, a leadership based more on hope, aspiration, innovation, and beauty than on the replication of historical patterns of constrained pragmatism. Luckily, such a leadership is possible today. For the first time in history, leaders can work backward from their aspirations and imagination rather than forward from the past.3 “The gap between what people can imagine and what they can accomplish has never been smaller.”4
Responding to the challenges and yearnings of the twenty-first century demands anticipatory creativity. Designing options worthy of implementation calls for levels of inspiration, creativity, and a passionate commitment to beauty that, until recently, have been more the province of artists and artistic processes than the domain of most managers. The time is right for the artistic imagination of each of us to co-create the leadership that the world most needs and deserves.
JMI co-editor Christine Quinn Trank of Vanderbilt University and former JMI co- editor Kimberly B. Boal of the University of Wisconsin wrote in the introduction:
After engaging in this taking-stock process on the occasion of JMI’s 20th anniversary, we can say that the journal has an impact. It still inspires and incites. JMI is still different from the mainstream and edgy in the best sense. It is still, as Marvin Washington put it, “hip and funky,” and to borrow from Paul Simon, we are still crazy after all these years.
Today we bring you a piece that serves as a perfect example of JMI’s inspiring qualities: “A Scholar’s Quest” by James G. March of Stanford University, who writes about the truth, beauty and justice in scholarship. Dr. March writes in his essay:
A university is only incidentally a market. It is more essentially a temple —a temple dedicated to knowledge and a human spirit of inquiry. It is a place where learning and scholarship are revered, not primarily for what they contribute to personal or social wellbeing but for the vision of humanity that they symbolize, sustain, and pass on. Søren Kierkegaard said that any religion that could be justified by its consequences was hardly a religion. We can say a similar thing about university education and scholarship. They only become truly worthy of their names when they are embraced as arbitrary matters of faith, not as matters of usefulness. Higher education is a vision, not a calculation. It is a commitment, not a choice. Students are not customers; they are acolytes. Teaching is not a job; it is a sacrament. Research is not an investment; it is a testament.
In her article, Adler recognizes the many crises that the world is facing today and the necessity for business to reposition itself at the forefront of society. It is important to then shift from the mythology of greed and individualism toward a global focus on our shared humanity. She challenges people to once again see beauty in reality. Through acceptance of our reality comes “the courage to envision possibility.”