Charlie Smith, a brilliant colleague and dear friend, has written extensively about what he dubbed, “the Merlin factor” in leadership in organizations. You can find more about this in his books as well as the excerpt below from the Library of Professional Coaching:
Most attempts to improve an organization’s performance by changing its internal culture fall short of the desired results. The principal impediments to producing effective new actions through culture change are people’s current beliefs about the limits of what it is possible to undertake and achieve. These self-limiting beliefs based on experiences from the organization’s past. By contrast, executives who successfully instill a new strategic intent in their organizations’ cultures share a leadership quality the author calls The Merlin Factor’.
The reference is to the legendary sage who, according to one account, “lived backward in time”. Merlin was born in the future and aged as he proceeded into the past, influencing events in King Arthur’s court by drawing on his foreknowledge of their destined outcomes. Exceptional leaders cultivate the Merlin-like habit of acting in the present moment as ambassadors of a radically different future, in order to imbue their organizations with a breakthrough vision of what it is possible to achieve. The author, Charles Smith, quotes from interviews with successful visionary leaders whose commitment to future achievements that seem ’impossible’ by past standards are producing extraordinary results in the present. These first-hand accounts illustrate the three action phases of the Merlin Factor: Invention, Ignition and Implementation.
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