As promised, here is a follow-on to last weeks post on establishing clarity, and using this time before the start of the new fiscal year (for some of us) to get clear on our direction and our plans for achieving those goals.

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Some people believe that having a compelling vision is THE KEY ATTRIBUTE of a good leader.  Most people believe it is at least ONE ATTRIBUTE OF MANY of a good leader.  Either way, there is clearly a consensus around the notion that leaders must have a vision…a direction…for the business.

The process of setting a direction requires understanding the interests of all those who have a stake in your business, and synthesizing them into a single direction which strikes the best balance between them.

It has been my observation that many leaders put the entire burden on themselves to come up with that vision for their companies, and I think this is one area in which they fail.  They feel that this vision must come from them as the leader.  It is their job as the leader.  If they do not have this vision then they are not competent to be the leader.  They feel that involving other people in developing this vision would make them look weak as a leader…so they do not.  As a result, the plans they develop do not adequately represent the interests of their stakeholders.

They put this pressure on themselves to have an “on-demand” moment of creativity and inspiration that will crystallize multiple abstract concepts and clarify the single magical route to having a successful business.  Sometimes that happens, but most often it does not.  Does that make them bad leaders?   No, I don’t think so.  In this situation though, there is a leadership failure, and that is thinking that they have to create this vision themselves.

Creating a compelling vision is not an indispensible leadership skill, it is the RESULT of an indispensible skill!   It is the result of strong process employed by the leader.  Utilizing strong process is the indispensible leadership skill in this case.

In creating a vision there are a few elements that need to be satisfied:

  • it needs to be a state that does not currently exist;
  • it needs to be a state that CAN exist;
  • it needs to be inspiring or motivating to the people who will be effected by it.

So, what will get you there?  What actions on the part of a leader will result in that outcome?

Think about it.  It needs to be inspiring or motivating to the people who will be effected by it.  The process of creating a compelling vision requires understanding the combined visions of all those who have a stake in your business.  It requires knowing who those people are.  It requires listening to them, understanding what that preferred future looks like to them, and incorporating their interests. It involves incorporating your own interests. And, it requires synthesizing all those interests into a single direction which strikes the best balance between them.

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that you should go ask your customers or employees how to run your business.  However, I am suggesting that there are many sources around you who have very clear and well thought out opinions on what is working well, what is not working well, and what the future might hold in terms of growth of your industry and needs of your customers.  There is a world of information out there available for the asking!

Do not forget that YOU are one of those stakeholders.  Do not discount your own interests or beliefs about what that desired future should be.  As the leader you must believe in that vision in order to draw your own highest level of commitment to it, and you MUST be totally committed to it.  Anything less will be evident and will weaken your ability to inspire and motivate others.

The result of this kind of process is a vision that is owned by all of your stakeholders and supported by them.  That involvement makes the vision clear and understandable to them.  That involvement builds ownership and commitment.  That ownership and support generates the energy necessary to make that vision a reality.

Next up…Translating those plans to action!