Where Are Tomorrow’s Leaders?
When former Omega Board Chair and staff advisor George Kaufman plays with his granddaughter, he's doing more than just fulfilling his role as a dragon; he's training a future leader through love, creativity, and kindness.
“Papa, what’s your battle plan?” My granddaughter Natalia has asked me that question for the three years we’ve been having imaginary galactic battles. Her army is mainly Pokémon, popular characters that come to us from Japan. They have strengths and weaknesses, and the capacity to “evolve” and gain in ability and talent. Natalia is also aided by the usual assortment of additional friends: fairies, ponies, and favorite stuffed animals all lined up on the side of goodness and truth.
My army is made up of trolls, gremlins, dragons, and the like, all nefarious creatures that are deliciously despicable, untrustworthy, and vulnerable. I respond that I have a million battle plans. My gremlins can invade her home through the electric wires, scoot down the chimney, hide in the ice cubes, or squat inside her toothpaste.
I can freeze her fairies, melt her ponies, blow her over with tornadoes, and put sleeping potion in the water she drinks, all causing dreadful mischief. But, to no avail. For every weapon I devise, Natalia has a counter-weapon that is stronger, better, faster, and smarter.
The rules are clear. I am to lose. Every time. I engage but do not triumph. I attempt but do not succeed. My job is to surrender or be destroyed. I don’t make it too easy, but above all, I don’t win. When we are on a common wavelength, joy radiates from Natalia’s body. When I have overstepped my role, I am either lovingly reprimanded or scolded. Those are the unspoken ground rules…but they are not my strategy…my real battle plan.
My real battle plan is to love Natalia without limit, to be in her world without condition, and to be her ally forever. I want her to remember my presence, not my words; my deeds, not my promises; my feelings and not affect. Today she is into buttons and bows. Tomorrow it will be buttons and beaus.
At issue in these battles is more than goodness over evil, grace over mischief, or even girls over boys. We are in the world of make-believe, and that world may be more important to our future than we can ever know. Make-believe leads to magic, and magic sparks imagination. Imagination feeds creativity, and creativity is the source from which all life springs.
Stultify creativity and the wellspring of life dries up. Feed creativity and the world is bathed in light. Perhaps you are thinking it is impossible to change the world from its current trajectory. If that’s your concern, perhaps you will find comfort in the conversation between Alice and the nefarious Queen of Hearts.
“There’s no use trying,” said Alice, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
We live in a world that believes leaders are forged through qualities like discipline, structure, and will. That has not worked so well so far, so let us posit a world in which leaders are forged through such qualities as love, tenderness, space, and freedom. These leaders of tomorrow are today’s children and our future. I believe in impossible things and the power of magic. If we cultivate their dreams, we can reap a harvest of hope and a bounty of endless possibilities. Our work is to keep the windows open, the doors ajar, and the pathways clear.