One Word… Vision (Part 1)

This is the next installment of posts about words that impact leaders on a daily basis. Last week, I talked about Data and how it can help us lead at a higher level – if used properly. Today, one of the most important words in a leader’s life… Vision.
First, let’s start with a working definition. There are scores of different definitions out there. If you don’t like mine, pick one you do like. What’s most important is that you have one. My synthesis of all I’ve seen over the years is simply this:

Vision is a picture of a preferred future.

How detailed you make that picture is up to you. The vision can be a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase or even a single word. It’s not uncommon for this picture to include things such as Purpose Statements, Mission Statements, Values or some combination of these.
Why does vision matter? I’ve seen research that indicates many leaders don’t have vision for what they’re leading – is that okay? I think not. Here are five reasons vision matters…
It creates clarity – What are we trying to achieve? What are we trying to become? What are we trying to accomplish? For most organizations, the list of options as it relates to the future are staggering. A vision clarifies the destination.
It creates energy – With a clear picture, activities can be aligned and executed on purpose – progress can be made. Progress creates energy. Energy creates momentum. Momentum fuels success. All of this is unlikely, if not impossible, without vision.
It creates focus – Are our activities aligned? With clear vision, you can think strategically about the goals, strategies and tactics of the organization. With a clear vision, you can also move with purpose as you allocate resources.
It creates accountability – Are we making progress? What’s working? What’s not? Who’s aligned with the vision and who’s not? A clear vision allows the organization to make informed changes necessary to accelerate the journey towards the vision.
It establishes leadership – All true leadership begins with vision. By definition, leaders are taking people and organizations somewhere. The somewhere is the vision. Without vision, you don’t have leadership – you have management. That’s not intended to be a slam on management – it is just as essential as leadership. However, the focus of management is today, the focus of leadership is the future.
Next week, I’ll finish this post with a few ideas about what makes a vision compelling and why many organizations struggle to turn vision into reality and sustain it.[GLS_Shield]

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