Leadership Series (28): Why A Leader Must Share Vision And Action. By Victor A. Imhangbe

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People produce real business gains and smart people need to understand what is needed and be part of the solution. No particular leader can stay in leadership position forever no matter how endow they are to the people. In light of the above, a passionate leader is able to forecast and project a clear picture of the future of the institution and share such vision and coordinated plans of action with people aspiring to take over from them.

As noted by James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner: “Being forward-looking, envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future; is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders”. From day to day visionary leaders make it point of duty to stoop low and confide on their followers, because the wisdom in it is; through the followers a leader can gets an honest assessment. Through shared vision leaders know this because they asked followers.

The unique characteristics and traits that most separates the top executive leadership from individual contributors and followers are something that they haven’t had to demonstrate in before, non-leadership roles. It is in light of this, only few leaders seem to have made a habit of looking ahead. Researchers who study executives’ work activities estimate that only 3% of the typical business leader’s time is spent visualizing and recruiting. The challenge tends to intensifies with managerial position. It is therefore mandatory for leaders on the front line to anticipate simply what happens after an ongoing project are completed. While the next level of leadership should be looking several years ahead.

To develop this forward looking strategy, leader must carve out time from their ever busy commitment, and care must be taking not to put too much value in their own foresight. This point needs to be underscored because, somehow, through all the talk over the years about the importance of vision, many leaders have reached the unfortunate conclusion that they as individuals must be visionaries. At this juncture, I would like us to rely on the article of Jesse Lyn Stoner; titled: “How to Create a Shared Vision That Works”. This is represented on the following diagram:

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The above diagram is a guild for leaders and their team members who want to create a shared vision. The following steps will explain the connection between the dots by linking those posts with the steps they support.

Step 1: Create a Compelling Team Vision

(a) Before you begin, everyone should understand the three elements of a compelling vision and how they are interrelated which are: Destination: Where are we going?
Purpose: Why do we exist? What greater good do we serve? And values: What principles guide our decisions and actions on our journey? Don’t forget goals quantify and define the steps you must take. They are the signposts that let you know you are moving in the right direction. They are measurable and answer questions like when? And How much? (Rather than Why? which is addressed by your vision).

(b) As a team, discuss each of the three elements of a compelling vision. Agree on what is essential and capture the key words that clearly convey the ideas that have been agreed upon. Do not finalize the wording.
Firstly, discuss and agree on your team’s purpose. How do you identify a team purpose? Jesse Lyn Stoner illustration will suffice:

“The window shade company was struggling. Mary, a business consultant, asked the owner, “What business are you really in?” The owner replied, condescendingly, “The window shade business, Mary.” Thinking to himself this conversation was a waste of time. But undaunted, Mary asked again, “When someone walks into your store, why do they want a window shade? What are you really selling?” That caused the owner to pause a moment. Why does someone want a window shade? “Well, to control light.” He thought a moment longer and added, “They also want privacy.” It dawned on him, “We’re in the light-control and privacy business; not the window shade business. “His realization opened the door to new possibilities that saved his store.

Secondly, identify the values needed to support your team’s purpose: Once you are clear about your team’s purpose, then identify the values needed to fulfill its purpose. Purpose answers why. Values answer how. They provide guidelines for decisions and daily behavior that will help fulfill your purpose.

Thirdly, create a picture of what it would look like if you were fulfilling your purpose and living your values consistently. As quoted by Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
(c) Decide how and when the vision statement will be written. Don’t get trapped into wordsmithing during your meeting. It is easiest for a couple of people to use the notes to write an initial draft after the meeting and then send it to the rest of the team for feedback.

Step 2: Honestly Describe the Current Reality

(a) Examine your current realities in relation to your vision. Identify what’s working and what are not, your strengths and weaknesses.
Engage in a simple “Force-Field Analysis” can work well in this step. This is a method for listing, discussing, and evaluating the various forces for and against a proposed change. When a change is planned, Force Field Analysis helps you look at the big picture by analyzing all of the forces impacting the change and weighing the pros and cons.

(b) Develop plans for collecting additional information to verify perceptions.

(c) Understand the importance of the creative tension so you can use it to your advantage.

Step 3: Identify Key Strategies and “Structural Integrity” that Support Moving Forward.

(a) Identify the greatest opportunities to close the gap between your vision and your current reality. This can be done by: looking for high-leverage strategic goals; those that will allow you to leapfrog forward toward your vision and include some quick wins; to help you see progress and stay motivated.

(b) Create “structural integrity” by ensuring your systems and structures will not derail you as you move forward.

Step 4: Plan for Involvement and Communication

For a vision to become reality, you must pay attention not only to what it says, but to how it’s created, how it’s communicated and how it’s lived.

(a) Develop a plan for ongoing communications within the team to coordinate efforts, to provide feedback on your progress and to keep your vision alive. Also discuss how to communicate the results of this meeting with other stakeholders.

(b) If this work is being done by a leadership team that wants to bring the vision forward to the rest of the organization, your work during this step is to create a plan for involving others in shaping the vision, identifying the roadblocks and the strategies and goals to close the gap. You will need to present the vision statement as a draft and ask for feedback.

(c) As you move toward finalizing your vision, test it against these benchmarks to ensure it is a

DRIVING Vision.
D-Demanding purpose
R-Results-oriented
I-Illuminating value
V-Vibrant
I-Identifiable
N-Never-ending
G-Guiding
(d) Have a discussion on the role of leadership. When a vision is understood and owned by all, the role of leadership is to remove roadblocks and provide support – in other words, to serve those who are working to achieve the vision.

Step 5: Make Personal Commitments

Never leave the room without putting yourself in the vision. As soon as you identify your vision, if you believe in it, you must start to live it, behave consistently with it, and model the values.
In this last step, each team member identifies specific goals and actions they will personally take that demonstrate they are living the vision right now, even as they continue to develop the vision and work out the details. When they share their goals, they should also explain what they need from other team members for support. This is one of the most powerful steps in the process.

Are you a leader or aspire to be one? The answer is the practice of Abraham Lincoln idealism by not expecting people to be great, instead he expect people to DO something great; to take great action as leader. Above all, you must have the Courage to Be Real:  When the best techniques do not produce the desire results what do you do? As a leader, it is up to you to know that theory and reality don’t always line up, but if you want to make a difference when it really counts, you need to act with your heart as well as your head. I learned that when the best techniques and tips don’t work, try getting real.

Conclusively, it is germane to understand vision as a picture in the leader’s imagination that motivates people to action when communicated compellingly, passionately and clearly. Our next series will discuss the negative effect of greed in leadership. Your opinion and feedback is appreciated on the comment column. Do you like the piece? It’s always good to share.

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