We’ve often been told by leadership gurus that the key to leadership is having a vision. However, as I’ve stated previously, a great leader needs more than a vision, he or she needs an epiphany. A vision, as we use nowadays, is often a personal desire of a future we want to create, but an epiphany is a divine calling to fulfill a greater purpose above self. In short, a vision is about self, and an epiphany is above self. More often than not, a vision has an ego attached to it.
Experts say that the success of the Starbucks is attributed to the vision of Howard Schultz, who told his friends in Chicago, when he built the first coffee shop there—the first one outside of Seattle—“Five years from now, everyone on the streets of Chicago will be holding a cup of Starbucks coffee.” That’s a very clear and concise vision, and he managed to fulfilled it.
When Steve Jobs decided to make the first iPhone, he told his team that he wanted to create a cellphone so beautiful that everyone holding it wants to lick it. That’s a vivid vision, and we know the rest of the history.
Visions like these have made many leaders rich, but we often failed to count those who failed, which might be a thousand times in numbers. Who want to keep a statistic of failures anyway!
Now here’s what a vision is like in the olden days. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a vision, but with today’s standard, it’s more than a vision because it’s not personal, but a divine calling. I call it an epiphany.
Now, the question is how can we have an epiphany? Epiphany means “to appear.” It usually means the divine appearance. So, we might think, since it’s a divine appearance, we would have no control of it. Do we have to just sit there and wait for the epiphany?
In fact, God is always revealing Godself. It’s a matter of whether we have the eyes to see it. For the magi during the first Christmas, their epiphany was the bright shiny star in the sky. Their stargazing skill allowed them to interpret the star as a sign of divine appearance and prompted them to take the treacherous journey to the west.
Many people during that time might have seen the star but they didn’t know what it means. Many others simply ignored it. In fact, the first century history of China has recorded a strange and unusually bright shiny star in the sky. The point is, the divine signs are all over us, we just need the eye and the state of mind to see it, and when we do, it is our epiphany.
Jesus had an epiphany at his baptism. Matthew recorded that, “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Then he heard the voice, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)
What brought him this epiphany was his surrendering of his will to do God’s will. When he came to John to get baptized, John refused to baptize him because he knew Jesus’ divine status ever since they were in their mother’s womb. John said he was not even worthy of untying Jesus sandals. So, he felt that he should be baptized by Jesus instead.
But Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) It other words, “Let’s surrender our status and self-importance. Let’s just fulfill God’s greater purpose for all righteousness.” Yes, it was God’s will for him to come on earth to fulfill all righteousness, but God never forced him to do so. It was his choice to surrender his will.
From this moment on, we see he consistently surrendered his will throughout his ministry until he was crucified. At the eleventh hour of his crucifixion, he was praying at the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to remove the bitter cup from him, meaning he rather not suffer the pain of crucifixion. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Here’s another example of surrendering his will.
To have an epiphany, we must surrender our will to do God’s will. That’s how we enter Leadership Above Self!