Years ago a friend gave me a picture book that promised to enable the viewer to “see what is invisible.” It was my first experience with stereograms, those incredible 3D images that look like a collection of jumbled shapes and colors, until you adjust your focus. At first it was frustrating. I really had to train my eyes to see in another way, to look beyond the two-dimensional surface. But once I did, all of a sudden the hidden image “appears” in 3D right before my eyes.
Adjusting our focus to see into a stereogram is an appropriate metaphor for leadership. Demands from ministry stakeholders are placed upon leaders to succeed. Therefore, it is easier to see the people we lead as useful only insofar as they contribute to the organization’s success. This pressure motivates us to view associates subconsciously as mere cogs in the organization’s machinery. But this is two-dimensional seeing. What we need are eyes to see the people we lead in 3D, to look beyond their immediate usefulness and towards their potential. We need to see the hidden “image.”
This way of seeing can change our lives, our leadership, and the people we serve. Yet for most leaders, seeing in 3D isn’t natural. Like each time I return to those stereograms, I have to train myself again to see beyond the surface. But it does get easier with time and practice. And it’s so worth the effort, because hidden potential is right before our eyes.