by Kamran Rizvi

Kamran Rizvi came to Pakistan and pioneered the self-improvement and organisation development movement under the banner of KZR

In the spectrum of time, which stretches from nano-seconds to eternity, why do our minds hover around just hours, days, weeks, months and years only? It is when we widen the area of our imagination, and hence our mindscape, that true and enduring leadership begins.

Eternal books like the Quran, the Bible and others came for our eternal minds. Their presence amongst us is evidence enough. We are mortal. Yet as human beings we can become immortal through our deeds by continuing to live in the memories of coming generations, long after we are gone. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other legendary figures from our recent and ancient history go on having a pervasive impact on us to this day.

The thought behind the need to expand our area of imagination, in other words, mindscape, was inspired by a well known saying of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) who says that when we plan, we should plan as though we will never die; but when it comes to doing things, we need to act, as though we may not get a second chance. Life is not only the time we have from birth to death. Life is more about what we have imbibed from our past and how long our legacy reverberates through time, once we are dead and buried. 
Back in 1987 in the City of London, I met a colleague and friend of mine, Shahid Doha, in his office. He had recently returned from his honeymoon in Italy. Not having visited the country till then, I asked him to share some highlights from his experience there. He took his time describing the beauty of the different cities visited. When he remarked, “We spent half a day marveling at the grandeur of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice”, I was taken a back, “Half a day??!! I said. Staring at bricks and mortar? You could just as easily have bought a few picture postcards of the cathedral and drawn delight from them!” He smiled and went on, “If only you knew the remarkable history of this cathedral, you would not have said this.” “What can be so unusual about its past?” I asked.

As the story goes, there was a man called Mark, who, in 1100 AD, when he was 50 years old, dreamt of a magnificent cathedral that glorified God. When he woke from his dream, he felt compelled to share with the world what he saw. He commenced meticulously working on drawings and plans for constructing this beautiful structure, which he had seen in his mind’s eye. This process took him five years. By now he was 55. He shared his vision and plans with family and friends and tried to recruit as many hands as he could muster to construct this grand cathedral. According to Marks’ estimates, it would take around 350 to 400 years to build it. He knew at the outset, that the task that lay before him went well beyond his expected lifespan. Yet, despite the odds, he managed to get the project started with trusted and able members amongst his family and friends. He passed away a few years later as the massive foundations were being dug. Despite this, through several generations, his team continued working relentlessly. The job was finally done, and today, the cathedral stands tall over a thousand years later in testimony of a man who had faith and a great vision.

Imagine how he must have recruited help and obtained unwavering commitment from   people who continued to work on the task through several generations till this mega project came through. Feel the immensity of his mindscape and belief. Try and visualize the succession process in which incumbents passed on what they knew to those who followed, and that too, without any dilution in quality of effort! No wonder Mark was labeled a saint. He thought of the possibility way beyond his lifespan, in the faith that a process once commenced, will endure through people touched with the same eternal spirit.    

Pakistan is just over just under seventy years old. Where are the leaders who have a compelling vision for our nation that extends beyond their mortality? You need not look around for such leaders. You already are, if only you knew. “Be the change you want to see in this world.” This saying from Gandhi has almost become a cliché, but its significance rings true to this day. What stops us from living this creed?

History illustrates enduring leadership principles handed down through centuries by individuals from a variety of cultures and traditions. Courage, honesty, flexibility, vision and persistence are timeless nuggets worth keeping in mind in our repertoire of leadership.
Michael Anthony Jackson  brings to the surface 21st century lessons which reveals that we can learn from prominent personalities of the past. His book contains revealing short biographies of five well-known individuals, namely, Alexander the Great; Changez Khan; Hannibal, Elizabeth I, and William the Conqueror. These personalities died centuries ago, but are they really dead? Lives of those who are no longer with us continue to guide us to this day. The ideas they embraced, nurtured and shared endure. 
Not to see leadership as an enduring phenomenon is to miss the point. Not entertaining eternity in your mind is to steal the 'soul' from the vital act of leadership that we can and must demonstrate in all walks life. Our souls are eternal. What Dr Wayne Dyre says is paradigm shifting: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

Think about it. You admire people who faced great odds and challenged status quo wisely. They shared a daring and a beautiful vision, demonstrated courage and compassion in the midst of adversity and made lasting contributions to society. In an HBR interview , David McCullough pointing to the need for leaders suggests: "We need leaders in every field, in every institution, in all kinds of situations. We need to be educating our young people to be leaders. And unfortunately, that's fallen out of fashion." He refers to leadership not being in fashion these days, particularly in the American context. I fear this trend is more widespread than we would like to believe.

Pretense, fear and apathy are our worst enemies. The real challenge we face is not outside of us, but inside us. Leadership is about facing this tough reality to fully leverage our expanded mindscape.

We all have dreams, some clearer and more beautiful than others. What’s their use if we don’t care to write them down and share them with those who are dear to us? Writing anything down is the first step to making it happen. Don’t let your dreams die with you. Act now.