A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending some time with one the governor of one of our counties. I must confess that my expectations before the meeting were not extremely high, as I have often encountered elected leaders who were more about hype and charm than substance. To my surprise however, I left our meeting pretty clear about the man’s vision and priorities and even inspired to want to be part of the change that he was so passionate about!
That encounter really got me thinking about the power of vision. Not just for elected leaders but for all leaders. Leadership guru Bill Hybels describes vision as ‘a picture the future that produces passion’. The word ‘picture’ suggests a description of the future that is easy for those following to visualize, understand and buy into. Whether you lead a government, an organization, a work unit, classroom or family, vision is your most potent leadership tool!
It’s pretty obvious to me when I walk into a space where there’s a clear and well-articulated vision for the future. You very quickly sense the energy and passion of those who work or live there. They have high ownership of their roles. They go beyond the call of duty, doing way beyond what is expected of them, in order to do the task well. Why? Because they believe! Vision is what turns bystanders into believers.
The leader’s first task is to define such a vision for their followers. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t know this. Some think of vision as a generic statement crafted at an offsite retreat to be framed and hang in a prominent place in the company’s reception area. Others ignore it as they immediately dive into tackling the most urgent problems. But without a clear vision, it’s difficult to know what to focus on today and what to set aside for another time!
Vision also enables those you lead to willingly put up with present discomforts because they have bought in to a preferred future that they are willing to sacrifice for. In addition, vision increases long-term effectiveness. As people join the organization, they already know what it stands for and rather than each pursuing their own agenda, they are able to bring their various gifts and strengths to bear on achieving the same thing.
A good vision also leads to good results. Over the next year or so, it will become rather obvious which of our forty seven counties have a clear and compelling vision and which ones are merely engaged in urgent activities and in managing the status quo!
But enough about governors and counties; what is your vision for the people that you lead? What is your picture of the future that produces passion?