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Together, they come up with new distinctions.It is a context in which two people build the life they want together.In the practice of being the board, you are not concerned that the other person examine her own assumptions.You see that the stumbling blocks that stand in your way are part of you, not her, and only you can remove them.Moreover, once you embark on the practice, you may find yourself relinquishing your claim for fairness or justice in favor of the riches that an intimate relationship can offer.You name yourself as the instrument to make all your relationships into effective partnerships.Imagine how profoundly trustworthy you would be to the people who work for you if they felt no problem could arise between you that you were not prepared to own.Imagine how much incentive they would have to cooperate if they knew they could count on you to clear the pathways for accomplishment.This practice launches you on a soaring journey of transformation and development with others, a completely different route than the one of managing relationships to avoid conflict.It calls for courage and compassion.King’s vision spoke to that which is fundamental to any human being, the theme that unites and uplifts the people on the street, the privileged in the suburbs, and the politicians in office.He demonstrated with body and soul that dreaming can make a difference.We are simply seeking to bring into full realization the American dream—a dream yet unfulfilled.It is to have the courage and persistence to distinguish the downward spiral from the radiant realm of possibility in the face of any challenge.As a species we are exquisitely suited to thrive in an environment of threat where resources are scarce, but not always ready to reap the benefits of harmony, peace, and plenty.Our perceptual apparatus is structured to alert us to real and imagined dangers everywhere.Yet we do have the capacity to override the hidden assumptions of peril that give us the world we see.We can open a window on a world where all is sound, our creative powers are formidable, and unseen threads connect us all.Leadership is a relationship that brings this possibility to others and to the world, from any chair, in any role.This kind of leader is not necessarily the strongest member of the pack—the one best suited to fend off the enemy and gather in resources—as our old definitions of leadership sometimes had it.The leader of possibility invigorates the lines of affiliation and compassion from person to person in the face of the tyranny of fear.This new leader carries the distinction that it is the framework of fear and scarcity, not scarcity itself, that promotes divisions between people.He asserts that we can create the conditions for the emergence of anything that is missing.We are living in the land of our dreams.This leader calls upon our passion rather than our fear.She is the relentless architect of the possibility that human beings can be.How do we reliably bring forth possibility in this context and take to our wings?It is about restructuring meanings, creating visions, and establishing environments where possibility is spoken—where the buoyant force of possibility overcomes the pull of the downward spiral.Enter the territory.Embody the new distinction in such a way that it becomes the framework for life around you.Keep distinguishing what is on the track and what is off the track of your framework for possibility.Here is a story in which a leader creates a framework for the possibility of learning to live with differences.A New Children’s StoryA little girl in second grade underwent chemotherapy for leukemia.When she returned to school, she wore a scarf to hide the fact that she had lost all her hair.But some of the children pulled it off, and in their nervousness laughed and made fun of her.The little girl was mortified and that afternoon begged her mother not to make her go back to school.Her mother tried to encourage her, saying, The other children will get used to it, and anyway your hair will grow in again soon.The next morning, when their teacher walked in to class, all the children were sitting in their seats, some still tittering about the girl who had no hair, while she shrank into her chair.Good morning, children, the teacher said, smiling warmly in her familiar way of greeting them.She took off her coat and scarf.Her head was completely shaved.After that, a rash of children begged their parents to let them cut their hair.And when a child came to class with short hair, newly bobbed, all the children laughed merrily—not out of fear—but out of the joy of the game.And everybody’s hair grew back at the same time.The teacher distinguished baldness as possibility—a fashion statement, an act of choice, a game to play, an opportunity for solidarity and connection.No one was made wrong.There was nothing to fix.And the new statement was more compelling to the children than their fearful imaginings because it provided a whole field of play.In the realm of possibility, there is no division between ideas and action, mind and body, dream and reality.Leaders who become their vision often seem uncommonly brave to the rest of us.Whether from the middle of the action, or from the sidelines, they are a conduit for carrying the vision forward.It is said that when the King looked out the window of the palace and saw the Nazi flag with its swastika flying over the roofs of the government buildings, he called for a meeting with the commander of the occupying forces.The King requested the flag be removed.The Nazi officer refused.King Christian walked a few feet away, and spent some moments in thought.He approached the officer once more.And what will you do if I send a soldier to take it down?I will have him shot, the officer replied.I don’t believe you will, said the King quietly, when you see the soldier I send.The officer demanded that the sovereign explain himself.King Christian said, I will be the soldier.The flag came down within the day.Perhaps people have been riding on their initial feelings of inspiration, which have begun to fade.Sooner or later things tumble into the dualistic structures of right and wrong and spiral downward.On our 1997 tour to Brazil, the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic gave its first big public concert in the Teatro Municipal in São Paolo after three exhausting days of rehearsing, sightseeing, and touring.The house was filled to capacity.They were high as kites.Now the problem was to calm them so they could get to sleep and be fresh for the concert the following day.It was after midnight when we returned to the hotel.The next morning I received an angry note from a guest saying he had been woken by a group of noisy musicians.Several other guests had been disturbed as well, the hotel staff informed us.The chaperones swung into action and demanded that I read the students the riot act.They wanted me to remind the kids that they had signed a contract prior to setting out on the tour forbidding them to consume alcohol or break curfew.Roz and I consulted on the telephone, from Brazil to Boston, and addressed the problem, as we always do, with the question, What distinction shall we make here that will bring possibility to the situation? A broken contract points to the dualism of good and bad, and leads into the downward spiral, so we looked for another framework in which to consider the young people’s behavior.I realized that while the rules for the tour had been carefully set up in contract form, I had never formally discussed with the kids their purpose for being in Brazil, beyond giving concerts.Purpose, commitment, and vision are distinctions that radiate possibility.Summoned to the auditorium, the diffident young players sat as far back as possible, their teenage bodies in various postures of exhaustion and protest.Last night after the concert, I began, a woman came to me and told me with absolute honesty that the two hours she spent listening to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony had been the most beautiful two hours of her entire life.You gave a great performance last night, and she was not the only one moved and changed by it. Their faces looked blank for a moment, as though they could not hear these words that were so unexpected.We came to show them the best of America!That great music is a way of communicating friendship and love.We came to show respect for Brazil!That teenagers can make great music!That music can be fun!That we are happy to be here!By now the answers were coming from all corners, and the faces were lit up with joy.When exuberance and ease were palpable throughout the room, I said, Of course, if you’d given a terrible concert last night, you probably would have all come home and gone straight to bed.It’s just surprising that they didn’t float any higher on sheer energy!But does waking the hotel guests at night represent the gift we wanted to bring the Brazilian people?You have to know where the track is to get back on, and you’ve all just expressed that beautifully.Two of the kids volunteered to write letters of apology to those who had been disturbed at the hotel, and others thought of additional ways to brighten our image with the people of São Paolo.No one felt blamed or made wrong.We left the auditorium with everyone in high spirits, ready to give two invigorating concerts.Yet, while most organizations use the term vision liberally, we have found that few have articulated a vision in such a way that it serves that purpose.A mission statement characteristically draws a picture of the company’s future, including its position in the marketplace, and designates the steps to fill out the design.This kind of statement may motivate people competitively, but it does not provide a guideline for all aspects of the company, nor does it inform people as to its meaning and direction.There is no long line.Mozart’s soaring duet from The Marriage of Figaro lifted the prisoners’ spirits high over prison walls in the film The Shawshank Redemption.I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about.Truth is I don’t want to know.Some things are best left unsaid.I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it.I tell you those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream.It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away.And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.In this way, a vision releases us from the weight and confusion of local problems and concerns, and allows us to see the long clear line.A vision becomes a framework for possibility when it meets certain criteria that distinguish it from the objectives of the downward spiral.It cannot imply that anyone is wrong.It contains no specifics of time, place, audience, or product.It gives over its bounty now.If the vision is peace on earth, peace comes with its utterance.When the possibility of ideas making a difference is spoken, at that moment ideas do make a difference.It invites infinite expression, development, and proliferation within its definitional framework.For that moment the real world becomes a universe of possibility and the barriers to the realization of the vision disappear.A goal—even the goal to be Number One in office design in America—is invented as a game to play.Games call forth a different energy than the grim pursuit of goals in the downward spiral.They draw out the creativity and vitality of the players, without denying that the level at which they play may have something to do with whether the team qualifies for the next round.Under a vision, goals are treated as markers thrown out ahead to define the territory.If you miss the mark—How fascinating! Neither you nor the vision is compromised.In the pursuit of objectives under a vision, playing is relevant to the manifestation of the possibility, winning is not.

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