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Leaders Have Imagination

  • Written by Mauren Schmidt, M.Ed.

Being an effective leader requires immense imagination.  As leaders we must envision the person who is not yet there; the situation that has not arrived; the community that is to be formed.

As leaders we must imagine the human potential, and this is no small or easy task.  We have to have vision and curiosity.  We have to empower others to use their imaginations and find their way in the world to life a life that only they can imagine.  We have to imagine and believe that what we do is making a difference.

A recent story in The Oregonian about the founders of Sseko Designs highlights the imagination of leadership.  About four years ago Liz Forkin Bohannon, not long out of college, decided to do a four-month trip to Uganda, to see what she could see. What she found through some volunteer work were college bound girls unable to go to college due to not having the $5,000 a year to pay for tuition, and not having a way to earn the money.  The opportunities were not there.  Unimagined human potential being wasted.

Bohannon, not married at the time, thought that starting a charity might help. But a Ugandan friend suggested that finding the students work – helping them to help themselves – would be the way to go.

An idea of making a flip-flop type of sandal appeared along with three students who were struggling to raise college tuition. Bohannon made a commitment to the students that if they worked on this sandal-making project, she would guarantee the nearly $15,000 they needed for college.

The three students and Bohannon, now married with her husband on-board with the challenge, made and sold enough sandals for the three to go off to college in 2009.

In 2011, Sseko Designs sold over 10,000 pair of Ugandan made shoes, with 10 students working their way to college.  One of the original three students is scheduled to graduate in a few months with a computer engineering degree.

Liz and Ben Bohannon with their imagination of leadership envisioned college graduates who could work their way to college and enrich their lives and communities with their experiences.

Leaders need imagination as they innovate, grow, listen, and respond with enthusiasm to the needs of the people around them.

Our challenge as parents, teachers and other adults is to see in a child an adult who is not yet there, to see an opportunity waiting to be discovered, and to envision a world we all will be making together.

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