The Vision All Leaders Always Need
We say leadership is all about others and then hypocritically say, follow me!
Leader-centric vision casting captures and dominates current leadership thought. From Moses to Martin Luther King Jr., stories of leaders with captivating dreams fill leadership literature. I love it and hate it.
We’ve made the exception the rule.
How many Moses’ are there? I’m betting you and I aren’t the next Martin Luther King Jr. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Self centered dreams last as long as you last. Vision centered on others, however, has legs.
Here’s a universal vision every leader must embrace:
Passionately help others find their passion.
Stop convincing others to follow your dream;
call them to follow theirs.
Limited time and resources demand selection. You can’t help everyone. Additionally, you have organizational concerns and responsibilities.
- Focus on those who share your values.
- Walk alongside those who share your destination.
- Enable those who embrace organizational mission. The more fully aligned they are the more you give. Send the rest elsewhere.
- Go with high potentials. Remember, however, that flashy personalities and high intelligence may not indicate potential.
- Alignment, character, passion and initiative are key high potential identifiers.
Vision centered on your passion not theirs is essential in several situations. Someone must boldly point the way during:
- Start-ups and in entrepreneurial situations.
- Innovative transformation.
- Social movements.
Every organization needs a mission and vision point-person; someone who embodies the heart of who you are and hope to be – that’s you. Organizational leaders can’t go around randomly saying, “Follow your dream,” regardless of the circumstances.
All successful leaders, however, enhance and enable others. Great leaders fuel the passion of others. This is the universal vision for all leaders all the time.
I’d love your feedback concerning this idea. Is there a universal leadership vision that lays alongside organizational mission and vision? Do you have exceptions, modifications, or concerns?
Great Post!! I feel a point you made is where I am at, and that is centering my mission and passion into the bullet of a snipers rifle rather than shotgun blasting at many missions. The ole “a jack of all trades rather than a master of none”. I have been a educator of 28 years with success beyond compare with students labeled as future dropouts–I am a successful high school football coach with players in college and pros, a defense that ranks in the top in Southeast Texas. I am working on my Doctorate with an emphasis on an ongoing crisis in our country with male academic achievement seen in grade school as well as college entry. I have some great ideas on athletic apparel that I know will do well. A jack of all trades yet a master of none. I would appreciate any advice or help–I believe your post today hits on it a little.
Love your candor and passion.
Narrowing our vision is uncomfortable because so many good things get ruled out.
One step toward clarity, is deciding what you won’t be.
The other idea that pops in my head is that leadership is about how to be. Who are you and how do you unleash yourself in the most effective ways?
Self-reflection helps. Maybe the coach needs a coach?
Just some thoughts…
Love the feeling of potential your comment gives me.
“Every organization needs a mission and vision point-person; someone who embodies the heart of who you are and hope to be – that’s you.” This is a great point and here is a application for it.
….you get an invitation from a CEO trying to convince you he has an opportunity that is in your strike zone. The job is yours if you want it; come over and meet the other members of the team and lets see where it goes from there. So there is some number of 1 on 1 meetings and then you find yourself at lunch with some subset of these folks (including the CEO) and someone eventually says “What else can we tell you about the organization ?” Your immediate response should be “Is there an organizational HEART ?” or “Where is the organizational heart of this place ?” and shut-up. What happens next will tell you all you want to know about that organization.
I love your questions! I’m going to use them on myself and others.
As one of my mentors has said Larry, “Ka-ching!” 😉 Great, great approach.
However, I’d like to make a brief comment on this sentence:
“Vision centered on your passion not theirs is essential in several situations”
While I overall agree, I do think that sometimes we have to give in to other peoples’ visions if they’re proven to be more accurate (and by accurate I might mean insighful, inspiring or ambitious) the our own’s.
Because a leader is also recognized by making good decisions, and if to make a great decision is to shift vision, I think that’s what a leader should do.
Afterall is admitting there’s a better way for the company, and employees will ackowledge that (hopefully!!).
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
I hear you saying, there’s always room for improvement… It takes humility but I think you are right.
I believe that leaders must establish a vision consistent with the core purpose and core values of their organization. Once they have their organization aligned to and believing in their envisioned future it is critical as you have asserted that they hand autonomy of execution over to their high performers, allowing them to develop and achieve their own dreams concurrent and consistent with the established organizational vision.
Hang on to organizational vision and let it go at the same time.
Thanks for your comment,
The myth that every manager and leader needs to have formulated a strong vision is actually one of the worst barriers to the successful creation of a coherent corporate vision and mission.
I recall witnessing a rather successful CEO pull out a flip chart that was completely filled with banners, boxes and bubbles. “This is our business vision,” he said proudly. “This is our roadmap for the future.”
No, he wasn’t confined to an asylum. He had just followed the usual MBA guidelines about how to create a vision. He had spent months together with his executive coach in creating this vision of his future world. And he ended up with something where it was absolutely impossible for anyone else to add a single word or thought.
Recently I was asked to design a new process for re-defining a corporate vision and mission statement. Preparing the ground for a new CEO, this process should go beyond the “usual suspects” (senior executive managers) to better include the perspectives of leaders in Asia and South America.
We solicited the help of more than 150 young high-potentials in India, China, Japan, Brazil, US, France and Sweden in creating more than 450 keywords and 30 different vision statements. The top ten most frequent keywords actually made it all the way into the new vision and mission, which was decided by the new CEO. (You can read more about this in Melcrum’s special report: “Optimizing global-local communications.”)
I shared some lessons learned from this with a few friends working for other Fortune 500’s. “Our company isn’t a democratic organization like yours,” said one European guy. “We couldn’t do the same thing.”
“How would you then go about creating real alignment in support for a new vision throughout your organization?” I asked.
I think the old approach toward vision is closed. Vision comes down from on high. It might work for a few very gifted, charismatic leaders.
Your question at the end hits the nail on the head. We can’t create vision in isolation and then expect the masses to own it.
I think I tend to paint the “universal leadership vision” concept with a broad, “kumbaya/warm-and-fuzzy” brush when in reality it is much more complex than that.
As a parent, my commitment to the ultimate mission of raising children who are capable of independence, civility, and altruism means that my outward leadership mannerisms are not all that warm and fuzzy (and parents can’t “send the children elsewhere!!).
The universal leadership vision is outwardly expressed in different ways, many of which may not appear “friendly” at the time. (In my experience.)
So for a leader to lead well:
• They must inspire others to find and fulfill their own vision.
• Must also inspire other to follow the leaders vision with passion and enthusiasm.
• All the while not trampling on the other person vision or watering down their own vision.
I think to do this the leader must have the right followers who’s vision also supports the leaders vision.
And the followers need the right leader to lend their support too.
Without a unified vision, there will never be success.
I have found in my years as a leader, that sometimes for each of us to fulfill our visions we must do it apart from each other.
Hi Dan. This arguably is one of your best post ever. Being in a service industry (although when analyzed with my eyes all industry sectors are service oriented) a universal vision becomes a lot easier to conjure up. What greater goal can there be but to use one’s God given gifts to help others. I believe we all complement each other with the unique talents we may have and I definitely do not believe in the zero sum game when it comes to leadership. I can honestly say at the age of 61 that I have never met a single person that has not in some way taught me something which uplifted me. To me there will never be a “better than” but always a collective greater good. I think you are spot on by saying it is “their dream” not ours that we need to focus on. The “golden rule” similarly stated would urge us to treat others not as we want to be treated but how “they” want to be treated. One of the greatest lessons in life is to just listen and observe. Strangely enough we discover so much more not only for ourselves but for all those we lead. We live in a “conceptual age” having migrated from the “industrial” and “information” realms and as such what we can conceive we can accomplish especially when we are surrounded by all the things and people that we might need. I believe there are many folks like Moses and Martin Luther King who may not have a mountain or a dream but do have the generosity of thought and goodwill that can move sierras and create fantasy for others. The human castle should never need a moat nor a drawbridge and hopefully 2012 will let us all congregate and synchronize our collective efforts to render a better world for everyone. I wish everyone in the LF community a safe, healthy and happy New Year and look forward to further growth with your teachings. Cheers 🙂
This gets back to the basic questions of leaders vs. managers and my ongoing hang up about the fact that the leadership of a Gandhi or Mandela isn’t what we are talking about when we talk about day to day leadership in the work place.
Not to be argumentative but I think your universal vision is a recipe for anarchy in the workplace/home/community. I can’t imagine it working in any environment in which a group has specific objectives because what individual members of a group are passionate about may not be related to the goals of the group. I think if there is universal vision it has to do with getting people with diverse levels of passion, interest and skill to move in the same direction in achieving a goal. Plus, a universal vision should not have “except fors.”
Leadership – Being able to inspire a group to accomplish challenges beyond what any one person could accomplish on their own.
For example, last night the New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South. As a part of this particular game, Drew Bress (QB) eclipsed Dan Marino’s 27-year NFL record of most passing yards in a single season. In the locker room after the game, Drew said a few words about the accomplishment. Go here to see what he said. http://www.neworleanssaints.com/media-center/videos/Brees-breaks-Marinos-record/7a4c4299-1cad-46e4-a419-b0f68b5b1b7a#?id=a1dae435-1feb-466d-ab0d-787b1594192e&channelName=Recent
Drew is an extraordinary leader who credits his team for the accomplishment.
I enjoyed reading the comments every bit as much as Dan’s blog. Very stimulating indeed. For me, the bottom line is this: you will lead a diverst group of individuals with varying objectives and passions. The key is to find the common good that they can all aspire to and live with. That becomes the goal. It can be as simple as the leader saying, “we are not going to climb Mount Y or Z. We are going to climb Mount X because I am convinced we have the ability to get to the top first. Okay, now over to you to figure out how to do it.”
Not sure that there is a ‘universal vision’, rather tend to go with a musical metaphor.
That there are many sheets of composition to play from. In these transitory moments, we overlap, connect and sometimes may seem to play as one, yet each provides a clear tone, tempo and rhythm to the overall sound. Respecting those distinctions is key. At times, we may be dissonant or seem that way, if, with intent, perhaps the result is unheard of and stretches us beyond our own sonic boundaries.
At times, musicians are swept away with the music and that too is magic in the moment. As temporal as music is (can’t touch it, see it, taste it, but we can hear it and feel it), in the moment created it is gone, so powerful and moving.
Musicians come and go, so too leadership moments. Connecting, often aligning, sharing the same perspective or tune, having the opportunity to bring our individual best to the moment is what vision and leadership’s role can be.
A truly great post. You have discussed almost all the leadership vision. I like the statement: Alignment, character, passion and initiative are key high potential identifiers. It is very true. But there is dark side to it. Organizations usually do not recognize and evaluate character. They are more concerned about numbers and financial outcomes. Character may not yield numerical outcomes in short term, it takes time. And there are elements which may try to shadow character by their masks of exaggeration and superficial performer. People hardly digest characters and values in the organization. But leaders who believe in ethics and integrity, can create culture of cohesion, harmony and happiness.
Leadership plays a great role in creating and maintaining a good culture where character is valued. Leaders should create vision and mission in such a way that people should understand it, talk about it and love it. It should be understood by each and every person in same manner. Coherence, clarity and commitment should be there to know and own vision and mission.
Very provocative post Dan.
The Sandbox. That’s what I call the marrying of the corporate/individual vision/mission.
Top management’s role is:
(1) to define, differentiate what sandbox employees get to play in;
(2) to preserve and protect their selected Sandbox. If market conditions change, if the winds pick up and the waves start crash, the Sandbox has to get moved through a well planned strategic process.
(3) Top management has to also provides the sand pails and shovels and others tools for the Sandbox.
Then top management gets out of the way and let’s the employees play in the sand. Let employees creatively develop their own personal vision/mission that dovetails what is feasible and profitable in the Sandbox. Let employees recognized their responsibility to create competitively. Make sure all creative initiatives are clearly positioned to add value to the customer who of course can shop at the Sandbox of his choice. Peter Jeff, The Leadership Mints Guy, http://leadershipmints.com
Nice post Dan.
I guess you are really asking do human beings have purpose.
And if yes, good leaders will have by definition have a role to play in releasing purpose; both individually and corporately.
The root question is perhaps; what does it mean to be a human.
A couple of comments:
I would say that the vision of the leader is to see others achieve theirs. in an organisational setting this might actual mean letting someone go.
Your comments all imply that the leader is doing all this by themselves, but by being an exemplar in mentoring others this will lead, in turn, to them being a mentor as well and so there is a greater effect than that of just one person.
Is there a universal leadership vision? I don’t think so, because different kinds of leaders are needed in different situations – especially in different cultures.
Moses never said “Follow me”. He was a military leader, and as a military leader he naturally commanded from the rear where it was possible to assess (plan) force relative to objective, organise it (tribes, thousands, hundreds, tens), and therefore adjust direction (lead) and momentum (control) of his followers
Lead does not mean from the front, something it seems has been misunderstood for a long time
Interestingly his first operation was the very difficult withdrawal from pursuit, commanding the rear guard, with his followers demoralised, and shepherding a large number of refugees towards a single water obstacle crossing the availability of which was uncertain. Not for the faint hearted in any one’s book. It seems faith in leadership is made of things like this….
Definately. This is one of those posts that you have to read twice. But, again we still need to focus on growing ourselves and other people with similiar goals. Before we can grow anyone else, we need to already be where they need to be.
I mean, you can’t lead anyone anywhere that you have never been….
Is leadership only for men? The picture above suggests that. I cannot discover a single woman there. In 2012 that is not realitiy any more. There are a lot of women leaders already (not enough, though).
Thanks for pointing out the gender bias in the image I chose. My apologies. Happy New Year.
I can’t believe you apologize to such a small minded comment. It’s a image, not a real picture of your view of the leadership landscape. Elisabeth should read your words and learn rather than study the pictures for imagined slights.
Elisabeth you must be new to this blog and the writings of Dan and the LF community. If you weren’t it the graphic would not have been misconstrued. There are no biases of any nature in the LF community to the best of my knowledge and certainly not with Dan Rockwell. That being said there is always room for understanding better and doing better so thank you. Cheers, AD
@ Tamzin’s – the problem with ‘growing’ others is as follows. There is often a lot of emphasis on leadership development, but not a lot on teaching leaders how to identify others with leadership potential, and for that matter sharing leadership. However, this was not a problem for either Moses, or Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps Dan is not aware of this, but there was a hierarchy of leadership under Moses, including his successor, and a leadership selection criteria is also described. Where King is concerned, the problem seems to be in the education because (c.a.p. Wikipedia) King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called “Big Six” civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer, Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality. The primary logistical and strategic organizer was King’s colleague Bayard Rustin.
@ Elizabeth – It seems to me Dan was using well known historical figures for illustrative purposes rather than to exclude women as leaders. Every time and social environment has its own leadership constraints, and for women this is perhaps more historically true, but is not a universal rule since Ancient Israelites had their female leaders (perhaps differently defined), and the American civil rights movement had its female leaders also. A quick Google brought up a 1993 article INVISIBLE SOUTHERN BLACK WOMEN LEADERS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: The Triple Constraints of Gender, Race, and Class, which seems to say it all.
Thank you for this post.
Ironically I wanted to say first “Thanks Freak!” because I couldn’t find your name on the initial page and it made me think how having a vision that no one else sees or possibly understands can make you seem like a “freak” but it’s faith that you as the leader must have and build. Only by your doing will they see.
At this moment I realized I have to seek those who share my vision or at least parts of it and “focus” on them and at least begin a discussion or dialogue.
Again, thank you for this post. Happy New Year!
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