“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

Fight Club

I am continually amazed how many ‘leaders’ in business lack vision – any kind of vision.

Many people believe that Leadership requires a vision—and I don’t mean just a photograph or an image in the leader’s head. I mean a complete understanding for the big picture of where the leader wants to be.  The thing is, a leader’s vision does not have to be something big or dynamic.  It only has to be clear and tangible; an idea that you can communicate to others in a way that they see their role in it.  It must set the pace through expectations and example.

In absence of it, a team or organization creates its own vision; individual employees begin to do what they think the leader wants vs. what he has told them.  The result can be progress towards goals through sheer will, but with a lot of wasted resources and time. 

I worked for a CEO once who had zero vision.  She did not know what she wanted – ever.  What was worse, she was great at telling you what she did not want…that is when you presented a strategy, option or solution for her to react too.  She created frustration within the team and especially her ‘revolving door’ of direct reports; one of which was me.  It was incredible how someone so smart, skilled and strong was unable to look past the day-to-day tactical activities and see the horizon; the direction of where she wanted the company to go and not where the company was heading.

We often put our business leaders on pedestals and expect them to deliver awe-inspiring words that excite employees and create success through the sheer act of delivering a speech.  Yet, not everyone is Steve Jobs, nor do they need to be to have vision.  Vision may belong to the leader, but the followers work with the leader to find the best way to get to it.  Great visionary thinking utilizes a symbiotic relationship between the leader and the follower, fostering collaboration, innovation and camaraderie.

Articulating vision can also be as simple as saying “I am not sure what this looks like, but I need you to figure out how to <insert goal here> without adding new resources.”  The leader’s vision may be muddled, but at least the employee knows what the leader wants to accomplish and the one known variable is not to exceed budget. I have worked in numerous positions where my job was to interpret the vaguest of concepts from a leader and create something from it.  A few variables and ‘points of bearing’ was all I needed to deliver something that was close to what was desired. From there, it was only adjusting and fine tuning to accomplish the task.

So, do you know what you want?

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