The Power of Vision, Part 4

Colorful-vision_Lu-Lacerda.jpg

Photo Credit: Colorful Vision, by Lu Lacerda, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series focused on the power of vision.

In Part 1 I began by providing the following definition of vision: vision is a picture of a preferred future. Further, I described the major work of leaders as communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.

In Part 2, I engaged the capacity of vision to provide passion, motivation, direction, and purpose for life and leadership.

In Part 3, I engaged how leaders can help to make vision stick by casting the vision well, celebrating the vision well, and living the vision well.

This week, I’d like to take on how leaders can identifying their burning vision.

“What Precedes Vision?”

In a 2005 talk at the Global Leadership Summit, bill Hybels provided his reflections on “The Leader’s State of Mind.” The focus of Hybels’ speech was engaging the following important questions:

  • What precedes vision?”
  • What gives birth to vision?”

Most leaders understand the importance of casting a vision for their people. Just yesterday I heard about a family company that spent a part of their day focusing on vision casting. As I sat in the stands at my girls’ high school basketball game this friend shared with me that the president of the family-owned company he works for spent a couple hours with employees sharing and talking about the implications of their company vision.

This work of vision casting is vital. When leaders have a vision, the advice shared last week is critical—cast the vision, celebrate the vision, live the vision.

But … how do leaders arrive at a vision for their team, division, or organization? Or, in the words of Hybels, “what gives birth to vision?”

Finding Your Burning Vision

What an important question to engage.

As Hybels discussed this he shared the example from the cartoon Popeye the Sailor man. When Olive was threatened, Popeye would get to a breaking point where he would say:

That’s all I can stand, and I canst stands no more.”

In many ways, this line captures the heart of what passionate leadership is about. Rather than simply having a functional and lackluster vision, visions that change businesses, organizations, and societies arise from “Popeye-like” passion that sees something and says, “That’s all I can stand, and I canst stands no more.”

“I Canst Stands No More”

So what in your life raises that type of passion? In Hybels’ words, “What can’t you stand?

This is the seed from which passionate vision often arises. When you consider your life, your leadership, your team, your organization, your work, your context for life, what in your life raises the response, “That’s all I can stand, and I canst stands no more?”

  • Is it the need to see students effectively engaging in learning in the K-12 environment?
  • Is it companies providing real value through effective research and product development?
  • Is it about your industry operating ethical standards?
  • Is it about working toward justice in some tangible way due to the needs of the oppressed or marginalized?
  • Is it about creating health rather than dysfunction in organizations?
  • Is it…?

Of course the list could go on to many other areas.

The key is to think through your life, your leadership, your context.

  • What bothers you?
  • What do you see that needs to be fixed?
  • What problems can you not stop thinking about and want to contribute toward a solution?

Living into Your Passion

Identifying your passion is the first step to identifying your burning vision. If this is not immediately clear to you, take some time in the week ahead to consider what it is that you “canst stands no more,” and then find a tangible way to live into this passion in your life. What first step can you take to consider a visionary response to this area of helpful discontentment?

The reality is, you will likely have multiple passions based on the multiple spheres of your life. Consider:

  • What is your burning vision for your team, business, or organization
  • What is your burning vision for your family?
  • What is your burning vision for your personal and professional life?

Although Popeye may not be the first “sage” we think of in identifying our passion and burning vision, it is a great metaphor to spur us on as we consider our burning vision and work to live into this vision with passion.

Next week we’ll take up some final vision reflections as we think through the visions we are meant to pursue in the year ahead.

As always, I love to hear your thoughts. Please share your reflections below.


Here are all of the post links for this series:

The Power of Vision, Part 1

Sight-and-Vision_Kate Ter Haar

Photo Credit: Sight and Vision, by Kate Ter Haar, Flickr

Vision is central to the work of leadership.

What is Vision

So what is vision? I define vision simply as …

a picture of a preferred future.

This picture of a preferred future can be for an individual, a family, a team, an organization, or a society.

By “picture” I do not mean a literal image, but rather a mental picture of an envisioned future reality that is preferable and desirable by those most closely connected to the vision. A major part of the work of leadership is communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.

Characterizing Vision

John Kotter provides the following characteristics of vision:

  • Imaginable
  • Desirable
  • Feasible
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Communicable

In keeping with these characteristics, Burt Nanus describes vision as a realistic, credible, and attractive future.

As leaders help to paint a picture of a preferable future for their followers, the vision becomes compelling and unifying as it is realistic, feasible, credible, attractive, and desirable.

From Sight to Vision

On this distinction between sight and vision, Max De Pree writes:

We can teach ourselves to see things the way they are.
Only with vision can we begin to see things the way they can be.”

Although our eyes allow us to see what is, vision is the pathway by which we can see…and help others to see…what can be.

From Vision to Reality

As we move from sight to vision, the next step is about moving from vision to reality. Warren Bennis describes the work of leadership in the following manner:

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Vision is about possibility. The work of leadership is about helping to translate this preferable possibility into living reality.

But vision is not only a picture of preferred future possibility. Vision and the leadership work of vision casting become the means by which leaders help organizations move from vision to reality.

—————————

In the month ahead I will be highlighting several additional features related to vision. Why is it important for leaders, followers, and organizations? What challenges come along with the leadership work of vision casting? Why is vision a primary tool with which leaders work?

Take a moment to share you thoughts on vision below.


Here are all of the post links for this series: