Fred Rogers kept a quote in eyesight in his office. It said “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”, that is what’s essential is not visible to the eye. Being committed to, as he said, “search for what is essential, what it is about my neighbor that doesn’t meet the eye” Rogers kept the quote as a visible reminder of his quest.
This quote describes one of the beautiful life lessons that are to be found in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.”
It is a lesson that invites kindness and generosity but also persistence and determination. The fox becomes special to the little prince as he invests time in their friendship, and his rose becomes unique to him because of his consistent care in helping her grow and live.
That’s how he learns to see beyond what his eyes make visible to him. Understanding how this extra effort transforms his ability to see, allows him to understand the uniqueness of everything and everyone. It also teaches him, how relating to his rose and friend the fox, makes them special and unique to him. It is nothing he can choose to find or see at eyesight, it is only available through care, discovering what’s beyond, and relating to them. And he cannot establish it with all existing foxes and roses.
While we may take it as a lesson for ourselves, it is also relevant for leaders.
It is not possible to have a special relationship with every member of one’s organization. It is only possible to establish such a relationship with a few members of the organization. It means to stay aware of how much is and will remain invisible to the eye.
The simple consequence is that an organization needs a structure within which people will be able to care for one another within their limits of availability and proximity.
It is not sufficient to have the means to control results or actions. But one also can’t do without. The achieved results as well as entertained actions contribute to establishing a link between the visible and the invisible.
But they can only contribute to making the invisible visible, they can’t make it visible by themselves. That is where care and enabling unique relationships steps in.