Leadership and Management
What is Leadership Vision?
It is commonplace these days to expect an accomplished leader to be capable of creating a compelling “vision” or to have the ability to convey to their workplace followers what the future may look like and to convince the team or the whole organization that it is worth striving for. But forming a vision is one thing and getting people to pursue it is quite another. Any “vision” of the future will count for little until it is translated into meaningful strategies and goals for every individual who is expected to play a part in achieving it. In other words, visions do little to motivate in themselves unless other steps are taken. It is therefore the leader’s job to take these steps and “craft” the vision so that it is meaningful to every individual.
Although every vision will be unique and will reflect both the needs of the organization to which it applies at the time and given its circumstances, at least in general terms, an effective vision will ideally reflect as many of the following characteristics as possible. It should be:
- Imaginable: It should paint a clear picture in everyone’s mind of what the future will be like. One of the myths about vision is that it needs to be grand or even slightly mystical. On the contrary, some of the most successful visions can be very simple but they must be clearly imaginable to the team.
- Desirable: It ideally needs to appeal to the long-term interests of everyone who has a stake in the organization, including customers, employees, and shareholders.
- Feasible: It should contain goals which everyone can see as both realistic and achievable. Stretching enough to challenge people but realistic enough not to be unreachable.
- Focused: It should be clear enough to provide guidance to decision-making on what needs to be done on a month to month or quarter to quarter basis.
- Flexible: It should be general enough to allow each individual to use initiative and be responsive to the inevitable and sometimes unanticipated dynamics that are part of any change process. A good vision is clear about what is to be achieved. The creativity of individuals, if trusted, will provide the tactics for achieving the vision or the ‘how’.
- Communicable: It should be easy to communicate. The trick is to think of key words that illustrate what we aspire to, e.g. quality at Ford, innovation at 3M, creativity and passion at Apple, and Six Sigma at Motorola, etc., for instance.
Every leader at every level can evolve their ability to craft a compelling vision. Here are a few ways that a leader could consider building his or her effectiveness:
- Engage in some quiet reflective thinking about what could be different in your team or organization in the future. Aim to “think outside the box” or imagine big changes before you start to edit them to deal with the realism of current constraints.
- Set up a special planning session or meeting with team members or other colleagues to invite creative input and envision what the organization could or should be doing in 3, 5 or even 10 years from now.
- Share your draft vision and goals to support it with your manager and your peers to solicit further ideas and input and to check for alignment and consistency.
- Once you have checked it against all six of the above criteria, share your vision with all employees on the team and encourage buy-in by inviting their input into the shape of the vision and the particular objectives that will need to be put into place to attain it.
- Encourage team members to write specifically aligned goals that are clear and stretching in helping to take the organization strongly forward.
- Check that each goal is consistent with overall vision and strategy and broadly support one another by checking to make sure that there are no direct conflicts.
- Help the team to resource each objective and provide ongoing support and coaching to maintain motivation and focus until the vision is achieved, or you are close enough to achieving it to craft a new vision for the future.