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Leadership Principle #2

Because external forces control the birth, death, and resurrection of dreams, leaders shouldn’t dwell on what might’ve been. 
“…It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” – Ex 14:12

My friend Mark left his sales job and embarked on a mission to Asia. His wife, Diane, quit her job at a bank. Eight years and two children later, they reluctantly reentered American culture.
Right before Mark launched the small business of his dreams, a new competitor emerged with a job offer in hand. He took the job rather than try to compete. The adventurous entrepreneur in him experienced a letdown, but relief overshadowed the disappointment.

In the book of Exodus, Moses returns to his Egyptian homeland to free his people from slavery. The goal: make them into a nation and lead them to the Promised Land. Of course, no one expected it would take 40 years. The people felt duped by Moses and abandoned by God. What had happened to the original promise of freedom? 

Little did they know, of course, how God would turn their disappointments – and their disobedience – into the foundation of a new nation. 

Have any of your dreams died? According to Creative Destruction (Doubleday/Currency, 2001), they need to.

The market itself, say the authors, keeps itself healthy by eliminating what is no longer needed. New, more efficient corporations out-flank existing ones, and the one-time leaders must react, sometimes drastically. Whole product lines are often sold off or sacrificed. 

When threats loom, we have two choices. We can eliminate the weakest parts of our organizations, or we can wait for outside forces to do it for us. Many leaders choose to execute their original plans at all costs, with only slight variations during the year. 

To succeed in the long term, however, we must allow for – and sometimes cause – casualties. Peter Drucker calls this the “organized abandonment” of products, services, processes, markets or people that consume resources without providing a return.

When one dream dies, it leaves room for a new one. 

A few years ago, I was devastated when one of my ministry dreams crumbled, but soon I saw a new one taking shape on the ruins of its predecessor. 

I marvel at Moses’ perseverance and patience as he suffered the rebellion of the people he emancipated. Talk about the death of a vision – but that’s what it took to build the character of Israel.

This series of chapter summaries is from Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible.

User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • linda henson
    From your article: "To succeed in the long term, however, we must allow for – and sometimes cause – casualties. Peter Drucker calls this the 'organized abandonment' of products, services, processes, markets or people that consume resources without providing a return."
    How does this apply to providing a much-needed service, especially to the elderly and impoverished, who "consumer resources without providing a return"? BUSINESS and ENTREPRENURIALSHIP does not consider them? Many of the elderly have again and again provided a return, "BANKED" so to speak well ahead of the time they have special needs that they can no longer meet themselves. Some have banked years of SERVICE to the military, public, businesses, church, etc.
    Just a question that is an exception to this wide generalization in your piece.

  • Tom Harper
    Hello Linda - actually, my point is specific to organizations, not people. So, I agree with you wholeheartedly when it comes to the long-term value of people themselves. BUT, in any organization, of course, sometimes individual employees need to go for the good of the group and its mission.
Leadership on the Verge

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Tom Harper
Tom Harper is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets. He is the author of Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H).
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