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.
What is vision? Well, let’s begin with a disclaimer: I’ve not been able to find a single definition of vision. 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?