As I’ve shared several times over the last couple of years, I’m a huge fan of questions. The more questions I ask, the better I lead. This is a journey I’ve been on my entire career – one I’m still on today. I think about this topic a lot. One of my conclusions: all questions are valuable, but they are not all of equal value.
Every time we ask a question, we stimulate the thinking of someone else. That helps them grow. When those around us grow, that’s always good for the organization. However, some of the most valuable questions are the ones we ask ourselves. Today’s post is about one of those questions.
Leadership always begins with a picture of the future. Therefore, one of the most important questions we must ask – and answer – is…
Where are we going?
This question can manifest itself in many forms. It can be a bold, audacious goal, a beautiful narrative, or a succinct description of a preferred future. It can actually be a combination of these.
Some might describe this as vision. I don’t care what you call it. It is the essential ingredient on which all leadership hinges. Without a destination, leadership is not required nor is it possible. Leaders move people towards a preferred future. Creating the future is what leaders do. It is impossible to intentionally and thoughtfully create what you cannot describe.
How important is this picture of the future? It’s probably the chief factor that separated Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. Even though you could easily argue Bush was perhaps the most qualified president in modern history, he never got the “vision thing.” Here’s an excerpt from Bush’s bio on the US Senate website:
“Bush…suffered from his lack of what he called ‘the vision thing,’ a clarity of ideas and principles that could shape public opinion and influence Congress. ‘He does not say why he wants to be there,’ complained columnist George Will, ‘so the public does not know why it should care if he gets his way.’”
We want… no, we need our leaders to get this. It is the essence of what we need leaders for. We need our leaders to declare the goal and convince us we can prevail. We need them to encourage, resource, challenge and hold us accountable to the activities required to turn the vision into reality. Leadership starts with the “vision thing.”
Here’s my hesitation with using the Reagan – Bush example. “Where are we going?” is not just the purview of global, geo-political leaders. It is the domain of every woman and man who desires to lead. If you’re the leader of a troop of scouts, the leader of a small team or the leader of the local Parent Teacher Organization, the principle is the same. You must ask and answer the first question first: “Where are we going?”
When you answer this question, you’ve begun your leadership journey. Prior to that moment, you’re a potential leader. Get in the game. The world needs you![GLS_Shield]