Why Dreaming is Essential for Your Leadership

Published January 14, 2020


CallingLeading Yourself

Leadership is about taking your dreams of making this world a better place and turning them into reality.

As John Lennon famously sang in his hit song, “Imagine,” “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

Much too often, as we grow older, our leadership journey becomes more about playing it safe, rather than living out those dreams.

Dreams. We are all born with them.

This is place where leadership becomes, at best, stagnant, and at worse, toxic and depressing.

I believe one of the keys to healthy, vibrant leadership, is to return to a child-like wonder and faith, and to dream again.

As children we had no limits. We colored outside the lines, we dreamt of dangerous adventures, we pretended to be super heroes, rather, we WERE super-heroes, saving humanity from evil villains.

Our minds were sponges, absorbing new languages, embracing different cultures and crossing forbidden boundaries created by fearful adults who had been put in power.

Just like the largest box of crayons, as children we loved the kaleidoscope of hues that represented this miraculous, diverse world.

Dreams. We are all born with them.

History is filled with dreamers who have changed the world.

Joseph, with his coat of many colors, dreamt about saving his family and country. When he shared his dream with his family, it nearly got him killed and it put him in prison, but in the end, through many trials, injustices and errors, his dream came true, and he saved a nation.

Thomas Edison claimed that all of his great inventions started with dreams—from the phonograph to the light bulb to the motion picture camera. People called him crazy, but we are all thankful for this inventor who followed his dreams.

Paul McCartney said that a dream created one of the most successful songs in the massive catalog of Beatles hits. He tells the story that he woke up with these words flowing out of his head and through his pen onto a sheet of paper, “Yesterday, All my troubles seemed so far away, Now it looks as though they’re here to stay, Oh, I believe in yesterday.”

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that one day his four little children would live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. His dream cost him his life, but it changed the trajectory of this bigoted world, and his dream will forever be the foundation of human rights.


Leaders must fight courageously to remain curious, adventurous, fearless, dream-filled children.

In Jo Saxton’s talk at The Global Leadership Summit 2019, she challenged you to build wellness into your leadership. The regular practice of dreaming is essential to a leaders well-being. Let me paraphrase two of her questions:

1. What did you dream about as a child before anyone told you who and what you were supposed to be?

2. Who are the people in your life who remind you to keep dreaming?


The Bible teach us to have faith like a child.

When leaders have courageous faith, they are not afraid to dream.

When a child ventures outside, the world has no limit
Fantasies, impossibilities, new trails where no one has seen it
The day lasts forever, not wanting it to end
“I’m the king of the world!” with sun-blistered skin
The potential of a child

One day the president, the next day a queen
No hesitation, no debate, just fearless dreams
No regret of yesterday, no thought of tomorrow
Skinned knees, surface tears, short-lived sorrow
The dreams of a child

Every child an artist, every child an engineer
A CEO, a movie star, a scientist, a musketeer
A world traveler, a hero, an all-star athlete
Almost always win, yet not afraid of defeat
The courage of a child

I sleep impatiently on a plane, hoping to get quickly from here to there
A child presses her nose against the window, staring, spellbound by what she sees in the air
Every moment a chance to learn, every second fully alive
Enraptured by the present gift, while I’m anxiously waiting to arrive
The curiosity of a child

The world says, “Grow up, sober up, don’t think so wild,”
Yet a very great man said, “You must return to the faith of a child.”
A faith that trusts, a faith that asks a million questions
A faith that wakes up every day with hope, serenity and no reservations.
The faith of a child

As we grow up, we are told to become responsible, uninteresting, unadventurous, fearful, calculating adults.

Leaders must fight courageously to remain curious, adventurous, fearless, dream-filled children.

About the Author
Ken Burkey

Ken Burkey

Executive Director


Ken Burkey is the executive director of Live58 fosters collaborative partnerships with local churches to develop focused strategies to better position themselves to serve the poor effectively. Prior to his role at Live58, Ken was the senior pastor at Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, California, for 23 years. He is the author of the book, The Power of an Orange Chair: Anecdotes, Stories and Celebrations of an Isaiah 58 Church.