“Dream no small dreams for they stir not the hearts of men”
--JOHANN WOLFGANG von GOETHE
I first came across this quote in a high school English class. It captured my attention that day and honestly, it’s never let me go. In the years since, I’ve posted it in various formats and locations from post-it notes to computer screensavers to index cards next to my bathroom mirror. Any time an ambitious new project comes up I find myself returning to this quote for inspiration and challenge.
Before joining the team at Growing Leaders, I worked directly with students on a daily basis. One student meeting centered around this quote proved to be the springboard for some incredible ideas that transformed our organization. After writing the quote across the top of a whiteboard and introducing the idea of dreaming big, I followed it up with a clarifying question: “If resources (time, money and people) were not an obstacle, what would we do?”
A lively discussion broke out as these students grabbed dry erase makers and began to fill the whiteboard with dreams outside the normal confines of “how it’s always been done.” Giving them permission to provide direction for the future of our organization moved their hearts and called them to action. While we didn’t use every idea generated that day (you should end up with some crazy ideas if you do this right!), the most influential idea that emerged was to give students a bigger stake in leading our organization.
Over the next few years, we implemented this idea with tremendous success. We found that as we cultivated leaders and gave them opportunities to lead, everyone benefitted. It all began with a dream and the desire to do something significant.
Another interpretation of this quote (Goethe originally wrote in German) states, “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” A small change for sure but how often do we really consider the power that dreams have to move the hearts of those around us? It’s amazing what can be accomplished once hearts are in motion.
As a leader, one of the most powerful things you can do is unleash the ability to dream in those you lead.
How can you create opportunities for those you lead to dream big?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Digital Engagement Coordinator