"I have a plan". Not quite the same is it?

On 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King showed what leadership means.

Four simple words, "I have a dream" inspired 250,000 at Lincoln Memorial and a generational change. Those four words were intensely personal: for King, his followers and every individual who would be affected by that change. He spoke of a compelling purpose, with ideas and words that transcended the everyday, short term and introspective normal.

What would have happened, had he stood up in Washington that day and proclaimed "I have a plan"? Not much, probably.

Steve Jobs had the same philosophy when building Apple. He recruited John Sculley (then Pepsi's youngest-ever President) "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?". Looking now at how we use technology, listen to music, consume media and communicate, that question doesn't sound so grandiose.

Business leaders today need to remember these examples. The more complexity they face, the more change they have to contend with, the greater the temptation to "stick to our knitting" and "get the basics right". As important as those hygiene factors are, they are not as vital to great leadership as the ability to identify a higher purpose that defines the organisation and to inspire people to follow.

Plans are necessary, of course, but only as means to an end. You have to dream first.