You Can't Be a Real Leader Who People Want to Follow Without Vision
"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion." -Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame
"There's nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can't clearly articulate why we're doing what we're doing." -James Kouzes and Barry Posner
"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." -Jack Welch
Leaders have a vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your written organizational mission statement and your vision statement.
The vision of leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values, and goals of your organization’s leaders. This vision attracts and affects every employee who is engaged in living this set of actions, beliefs, values, and goals. They want to share your vision.
The ReCellular Leadership Vision
ReCellular, Inc. was formerly a mid-sized company that refurbished, repaired, and resold wireless phones and other electronic devices. Not only did the company keep millions of pounds of these devices out of landfills, but they also make thousands of products available for re-use. And, they donated thousands of dollars to charitable causes from the profits they made recycling.
Now, if you were an environmentally-committed person who cared about the millions of electronic devices that can potentially reside in landfills, this leadership vision was most appealing. Indeed, many employees were attracted to the work because of the green mission, and the opportunity to serve a cause that they perceived was bigger than themselves.
Additionally, the opportunity to serve many charitable and environmental causes with the profit from the sale of the phones while working simultaneously appealed to another group of vision, mission-driven people.
The ReCellular leadership vision was truly moving and powerful.
Why Is Leadership Vision Powerful?
The leadership vision was powerful because the senior managers and leaders believed in the vision and mission. Not just a statement hanging on a wall, the leadership vision was even more powerful because people lived the leadership vision every single day at work.
When leaders share out a powerful vision and organize and staff the workplace to accomplish it, a powerful dynamic drives employee performance. When leaders walk their talk, it's a demonstrated motivator for people. When leaders share a strong vision, employees flock to it—even choosing the job in the company over other options. The leadership vision as manifested in the work of employees was a retention factor for the people who shared the vision.
Employees were not just processing wireless devices to make money for the company owners, they were saving the tiniest babies or providing a safe haven for abused women. They were keeping electronics out of landfills. Can a shared leadership vision get any more powerful than this?
Leadership Vision Fundamentals
While your organization may not have such an intrinsically compelling vision as ReCellular, your leaders can inspire with their own vision. In fact, most businesses were started because the founder had a vision of what they could create.
Employees often join organizations because of the vision and direction shared when they attend the on-site job interviews. In fact, that is part of the organization's job when interviewing superior candidates.
They need to give the best candidates, the employees that you really want, compelling reasons to choose your organization over any other organization—this becomes even more important as the war for the most talented employees escalates.
The vision may have changed along the way, but as long as the leader continuously shares the vision, employees can adapt and adjust.
Sharing that vision with others in a way that compels them to act is the secret to a successful leadership vision.
These are the fundamentals necessary for a vision that excites and motivates people to follow the leader. The vision must:
- Clearly set organizational direction and purpose
- Inspire loyalty and caring through the involvement of all employees
- Display and reflect the unique strengths, culture, values, beliefs, and direction of the organization
- Inspire enthusiasm, belief, commitment, and excitement in company members
- Help employees believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work
- Be regularly communicated and shared, not just through monthly announcements and reminders at the company meeting, it must permeate all communication at every level of the organization every day
- Serve as the reason for why courses of action are chosen, people are hired, markets are selected, and products are developed
- Challenge people to outdo themselves, to stretch and reach
Characteristics of a Successful Leadership Style
Much is written about what makes successful leaders. This series will focus on the characteristics, traits, and actions that many leaders believe are key.
- Choose to lead and practice adaptive leadership
- Be the person others choose to follow.
- Provide a vision for the future.
- Provide inspiration.
- Make other people feel important and appreciated.
- Live your values. Behave ethically.
- Leaders set the pace by their expectations and example.
- Establish an environment of continuous improvement.
- Provide opportunities for people to grow, both personally and professionally.
- Care and act with compassion and communicate positive mental health.