In Bruce Wilkinson’s wonderfully empowering book The Dream Giver, he spins an allegory about a guy named Ordinary who leaves his comfort zone to pursue his dreams. The further he travels away from the familiar, the more unsettled he becomes, and the more he is oppressed by those opposed to his audacity to dream. He encounters Border Bullies, who try to prevent him from crossing into unfamiliar territory. His tenacity is tested in the Wasteland. And just when the fulfillment of his dream is in sight, he meets Giants, whose self-appointed purpose is to take him down and deny his dream.
If you tried to make any headway in 2020, you know the tale is true. Some of the obstacles that prevent us from realizing our goals are gigantic. But as leaders, if we are to persist and win, we must find ways to effectively neutralize those Giants, one way or another:
Avoid the Giant. Some problems can simply be avoided, like detouring around a landslide. There may be many routes to your goal. One blocked path doesn’t mean you are deterred, merely detoured.
Redirect the Giant. Some Giants attack simply because they cannot allow any challenge to go unanswered. But if you can convince a Giant that you are not an enemy, and in fact, may share some common goals, you may be able to enlist that Giant’s considerable help by focusing its energies on another target. You may have talented and passionate Giants who have difficulty in comprehending the long-term goal, and unintentionally cause obstructions to your progress. But if that passion can be directed along a parallel path to a mutual aim, you’ve not only removed an obstacle, but have gained a committed ally.
Hinder the Giant. In an effective offensive strategy of a good football team, some members intentionally block the moves of the opposing team while others advance the ball toward the goal. Recognize that your best chance for reaching your goal is not a solo effort. Take time to develop collaborative partnerships and train your teammates in anticipation of necessary strategies.
What tactics can be employed, if necessary, to move beyond the obstacle, huge as it is? Are there any social, legal, economic, or other incentives (or disincentives) to employ? What resources can be added or removed from the state of affairs to mitigate the problem? How may the confounding issue be countered, refuted or reframed? With a well-trained and well-equipped team, your Giant may be controlled or curtailed enough for the dream to be attained.
Conquer the Giant. It is dangerous to approach a Giant. Because of its size, strength, and contrariness, confronting a Giant can be a fearfully intimidating experience. It has the capacity to seal your fate and steal your dream. Confronting the Giant may indeed be a life-and-death matter.
Fear is a natural reaction to facing the unfamiliar, the hazardous, or the unknowable. Yet, the only tonic for fear is courage: intentional action in spite of it. Knowing full well the risks, the dreamer takes a deep draught from the flask of Courage, calculates her steps, and proceeds.
Giants do not easily fall. But even the biggest and most fearsome are not invincible. Conquering them, while difficult, is possible. The dreamer/leader and his or her team must commit all available resources to knowing, acting on, and reacting to their own—and the Giant’s—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. With persistence, proper knowledge and courageous deeds against the Giant, yield it may.
Like successful dreamers, the most effective leaders find ways to disable the difficulties on the way to achieving the mission. Who or what are your Giants?