Imagining Elephants

One evening, a couple of weeks back, I was relating to my wife the events of the day at the office. We were in the kitchen getting ready for dinner and our 5-year-old was quietly taking in the conversation. Specifically, I was describing a particularly difficult conversation in which I was involved during which neither person was able or willing to name the most central and important issue. It was a frustrating conversation and definitely fully loaded. In sharing this with my wife I stated that there was “a very large elephant in the room” and that we weren’t able to name it.

The next evening, probably while getting that same 5-year-old ready for bed, she looked up at me and asked: “Daddy, how did that elephant get into your office?”

I laughed very hard and very long. I so wish I could have been inside her imagination for that 24 hour period. What must it have been like in there, imagining a very real, very large elephant taking up residence in my office? How must that have looked to her? The struggle at some level of her conscious thought between what was totally and utterly possible and what simply did not compute?

She reminded me of the power of imagination. Of the innocence and safety required to see things with fresh eyes and to ask questions when things just don’t make sense. And how we, as leaders, have a deep responsibility to cherish, protect and encourage the biggest thoughts and the toughest questions.

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