What’s the Relationship between Vision and Reality?

How do you assess your own vision? Is it possible? Or is it a pipe dream? Many grand visions seem impossible when they are first dreamed of. Yet at the same time, some leaders go down in flames because they rigidly cling to their vision without being able to see reality.

I’ve been reflecting on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. I mentioned a while back that our book group was reading War and Peace. Actually at times finishing the book, at over 1200 pages, seemed like an impossible vision. But I did it, helped out by some bad weather which kept me cooped up more than I had planned.

I also read, during another bout of snow, Nigel Nicolson’s Napoleon 1812. It’s less than 200 pages, and I was glad to get a modern view of Napoleon’s efforts and their failure. Ironically, Hitler made the same mistake of invading Russia in 1941 and was likewise defeated. Napoleon was a brilliant general, but he had a hard time accepting the reality of his situation, that Russia was too big and too cold for his army ultimately to prevail.

There’s an incredible visual representation by Charles Joseph Minard of the decimation of Napoleon’s army . I keep looking at it. The brown line shows the army going in to Russia, and the black line shows them coming out. (Just click on the picture to get a full-size view.)


So what does this have to do with church leadership? Having a big vision is very important, but we have to pay attention to the feedback we are getting from the environment as well. Leaders who ignore input from the environment won’t last long. Both aspects of leadership are essential: clarifying the vision, and connecting with the environment (both people and other elements).

How are you getting input from your environment? What do you read, listen to, and who do you talk to?

1 replies on “What’s the Relationship between Vision and Reality?

  • Israel Galindo

    Very cool. I have a framed print of Minard’s diagram in my study. Edward Tufte refers to it as the best graphic (chart) ever made (or something like that). It’s quite ingenious. I use it in one of my courses as an example of systemic visualization.


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