Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3 Things Leaders Must Remember About Vision

Vision is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of leadership. It is universally held as a critical element of successful leadership; yet as it is discussed, it is often shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. It doesn’t have to be this way. Vision rightly defined and understood is the cornerstone of great leadership and great accomplishment.

3 Things Leaders Must Remember About Vision

What is vision?

Well, let’s begin with a disclaimer: I’ve not been able to find a single definition. On the contrary, I’ve found scores of them! That’s why I’ve always encouraged leaders to find a definition they like and be sure everyone in their organization defines it the same way.

There are two very  different definitions of vision that I really like. One, the more detailed, comes from Jim Collins. I discovered this years ago - before he was famous. He was a professor at Stanford when he defined vision as a composite of three things…

            Your Purpose – Why you exist

            Your Core Values – The beliefs that will drive your behavior

            Your Mission – A big goal that you plan to achieve in 5 – 7 years

It’s a little clunky – but I like it.

The other definition I find powerful is from Bill Hybels, the pastor at one of America’s largest churches. He says, “Vision is a picture of the future that stirs passion in you.” Using his definition, the vision can be articulated in a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph or a sermon. It’s all about the picture!

It is critical to define vision, but there are several other things about it that are equally critical.

Vision matters more than we want to believe – It is absolutely essential! A vision, well articulated and communicated consistently can provide energy, direction, passion, followship and action. Without it, people will become distracted, discouraged and disengaged. It is also the fuel that keeps leaders going when others may want to quit.

Vision leaks and must be constantly replenished – People forget the vision. For leaders, this is sometimes hard to understand – we don’t forget the vision. That’s because it is OUR VISION. We can forget that the people we want to lead have lives too. They have families, hobbies, hopes, dreams, bills to pay and personal challenges of all types. OUR VISION is rarely at the top of their list. As a consequence it leaks! Our challenge is to constantly fill them up with a fresh dose of what could be.

Vision must be communicated with multiple approaches – For vision to work its magic and provide the inspiration and challenge that you want, people have to “catch the vision.” One way to help people catch it is to present it in a way that resonates with them individually. This means different approaches will be required. If you only communicate vision in one fashion, you’ll miss a lot of people. You may want to check out my post, 7 Ways to Help People Catch Your Vision. 

What’s your vision?

Categories: Core Values, Vision

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Comments (2)
  1. I believe I have that Jim Collins article in my files. Also believe it was Andy Stanley who talked about the tendency to lose the vision after experiencing a measure of success since you now have more to protect, which makes it all the more important to recast the vision as time goes on.

    - nathan
    • I agree Nathan – the vision starts with us! Thanks for commenting!