Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leadership: Vision for Everyone

If you pick up any book on leadership you will no doubt discover at least one chapter dedicated to the concept of “Vision.” Leadership experts are in unanimous agreement that “Vision” is a key ingredient of any leader's success.

But is a vision required only for the top leadership of the organization? Or should a vision be a key ingredient in the makeup of any leader at any level of the organization?

I contend that vision is required of every leader, from the CEO right down to the Team Leader in every department.


To answer that question, let’s look at what it means to have a vision.

John Maxwell, in his seminal book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership covers vision as part of his Law of Navigation. Maxwell writes, “Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

Having a vision is more than steering your ship, it’s charting that destination, that major goal of the organization that allows all members of the team to work together. The problem is that when the vision is set only at the top, only by the CEO, the other members of the organization may have a difficult time in identifying what they can do to contribute to that vision. In fact, they may feel so removed from that vision, that they view the vision as pointless.

That’s why it is important for every leader in the organization to understand where they fit within the big vision and to communicate their role in that scheme by creating a vision for their own team.

Is this the same as having goals and objectives that are in synch with the overall goals and objectives of the company?

Absolutely not. Goals and objectives are specific and measurable and should definitely be consistent with the company’s goals. But the vision is about those things that are not measurable. They reflect the intent and the attitudes of the organization more than just the raw data. In fact, this vision may well go a long way in helping to define what those goals and objectives might be.

In real life, it may look like this.

Company A states their vision to be the “Preferred provider of purple widgets to the housing industry with unsurpassed quality and customer service”. While this vision might serve the company well in the marketplace and inspire both their Manufacturing and Customer Service to create premier organizations, this vision will likely to do nothing to inspire the Legal department, or the Accounting department. But leaders of these areas can create a vision that reflects the company's vision and relate it back to their own responsibilities. This will help inspire their team members and demonstrate clearly how their vision relates to the overall company vision.

For example, the Accounting/Billing department may define their vision as: “To create timely, accurate, and easy to read invoices, encouraging timely payment of all outstanding amounts”. This could easily lead to goals and objectives for timeliness and accuracy that support the company's vision but also create a non-measurable desire on the part of the Billing department to simplify their invoicing and create greater accuracy.

Similar visions can be created at even lower levels of the organization supporting both the company's and the department’s vision. You see, people at every level can't exactly rally around a goal or objective, but they CAN rally around a vision.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would certainly welcome your comments on these ideas. We encourage you to share this blog with your friends and co-workers in hopes they will also find value.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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