Lisagor: Lead with enlightenment

Managers should strive to be philosophical leaders

At a banquet in Beijing in 1985, a seasoned government official told me the story of a tiny village in Hunan Province. Two young explorers had discovered a group of long-lost relatives 100 miles away. The elders ordered the construction of a road that would enable them to trade with the people in that town — a project that might take more than 50 years to complete. An impatient village youth exclaimed, “Why, that will take forever.” One of the wise leaders replied, “Then we’d better start today.”

Michael Lisagor

One definition of enlightenment is hope. Another is the potential for wisdom and compassion that exists in each human being. We should try to become enlightened managers.

Many of the problems I encounter as a consultant stem from the inability of managers to perceive the world from an enlightened perspective. We can’t always control what happens, but we often can control how we react. Do we choose to respond to the daily challenges of management with anger and fear? Or can we learn to be compassionate and confident about the future?

An organization’s growth depends on the vision of its leader and his or her willingness to change. Can we afford to neglect taking actions now that will ensure our organization’s long-term success? How long can our personality and good luck continue to drive our organization’s growth? When do sound and humane business practices cease to be a luxury and become a necessity? The French diplomat Jean Jules Jusserand wrote, “Remember this also, and be well-persuaded of its truth: the future is not in the hands of Fate, but in ours.”

Do you grimace when someone mentions the word plan? Do you have one? If so, is it a living document that drives meaningful actions, or is it gathering dust on your office shelf? Are your subordinates comfortable telling you what they think, or are you as clueless as the emperor with no clothes? Will you always be a general of foot soldiers, or are you willing to become a general of generals? And perhaps most importantly, are you so consumed with achieving your objective that you’ve lost sight of your values? The answers to those questions will determine your organization’s future.

Too many of our business practices lack an underlying philosophical foundation. What is a manager’s real purpose in life? Is it to amass as much wealth as possible? Is to become a company vice president or president? When did who we are become more important than how we behave?

Hopefully, those questions will prompt you to re-evaluate some of your beliefs, listen to your employees and seek the guidance of others.

Although what you know will probably continue to contribute to your success, what you ignore will most likely cause your failure and future unhappiness.

Lisagor founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help executives accelerate and better manage business growth. He serves as program chairman for FCW Events’ Program Management Summit and is the author of “Business Development Guide for Selling to the Government,” which is available at his Web site, He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at