Vision is the third, irreducible element of leadership. Like capacity and trust, vision is essential to a leader’s effectiveness. The more clearly a leader envisions the future, the greater the probability that he or she will be able to guide others to that new, and for some, unimaginable destination.
Besides establishing direction, vision provides three critical and practical institutional functions. Vision unifies the group, energizes the corporate passion, and defines priorities.
Unity is found in a clearly defined destination. A group can move as one when the individuals are drawn to accomplish something great. Energy is unleashed when the hope of a new and better future is clearly articulated. Priorities are more easily understood as leaders say yes to opportunities that move toward the future and no to the things that would distract the group from accomplishing its shared vision.
So where does vision come from? And where do leaders look to discover the preferred future for their organization?
Ironically, vision begins in the past. The future always has a history. Assessment of the current situation and keen awareness of the forces that brought the institution to its current position are critical as leaders redirect the organizations resources. (See – A Trustworthy Saying Blog: Vision and Assessment)
Philosophic foundations provide the strength and stability upon which vision can be established. These foundations exist as both values (what the organization believes, holds dear, and to which it conforms) and mission (why the organization exists). These underpinnings are much more significant than many leaders’ short-term, emotional hype or shallow charismatic attraction. (See – A Trustworthy Saying: Vision and Philosophical Underpinnings)
Rarely is the future written by mystical fingers on a wall for all to see. Most often, vision emerges at the intersection of our desires, the unmet needs of others, and our available resources. Sometimes this is a highly personal experience; other times it involves significant corporate cooperation. Remember, people support what they help build. The more people are involved in the discovery process, the more they are supportive during the time of implementation. (See – A Trustworthy Saying: Vision Discovery)
Vision shrouded in the murky fog of abstraction is like an undercooked biscuit. It has the proper ingredients but needs more time to bake before its aroma and flavor leave you wanting more. The more clearly the vision within the leader’s mind is articulated – and the more clearly it is shared with others – the greater the probability that followers will make the leader’s vision their own. A high-definition vision unifies followers, raises excitement, focuses resources and redirects energy. (See – A Trustworthy Saying: Vision Articulation)
I believe it was Peter Drucker who said all planning must deteriorate into work. Implementation transforms dreams into reality. Leaders must ensure that the mundane steps of action planning, assigning responsibility, setting deadlines and supervising projects transform dreaming into doing. (See – A Trustworthy Saying: Vision and Implementation)
Vision looks upon a different world; it disrupts the status quo and requires something to change. Change threatens people. Their relevance, power, and significance may diminish as the cards of life are shuffled. To overcome the follower’s fear of change, a leader must paint a believable picture of the present trajectory highlighting the probability of significant problems and pain if the group remains on the current path. Better still, a leaders can depict an authentic future of hope and possibility that inspires and enlivens the best in people, motivating them to abandon the past for a future that is worthy of the risk. (See – A Trustworthy Saying: Vision and Change)
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