A leader shouldn’t overdrive his workforce lest they grow weary and slide from motivation to indifference. Short-term thinking is an obsession with quick results. But the vision trip isn’t a sprint.
A vision can’t be held sacrosanct because it’s susceptible to social change. Time and events are sometimes cruel to visions. They may render them obsolete or block their implementation. Then, in spite of its vulnerability, a vision is one of the main things that make leadership tick. Visioning is a systematic exercise. It isn’t something that can be done anyhow. If there should be a result, the due process must be followed. The process begins with the birthing of visions to their actualization (or destination).
The Vision Orbit
Burt Nanus, once said that vision is one part foresight, and on the other part insight, plenty of imagination and judgment”, Nanus, a professor of management and author/editor of 20 books on leadership, is right at least on the physical plane of vision formation and implementation where most leaders likely operate. For such leaders, a vision would be a product of intuition, imagination, hard thinking, rigorous research, and stubborn faith.
A vision could be formidable in examining the fossils of past industrial disasters to understand why some organizations went down in red and other great organizations were able to sail to the shore. Thus one can consider the tumult of the moment and imagine how the organization can take advantage of the ongoing pandemic to improve its performance.
Thorough research or survey should help filter everything through the inner eyes of the organization. A new creative idea might surface that could improve the organization’s stand. It is always good to explore a new thing. Believe it. It’s vision.
Now, a vision about some great lift for an organization is conceived. Thereafter it is developed and fine-tuned by giving it a critical look and presenting it for discussion before a team. Through appropriate communication, the vision is shared with the team and is accepted.
What is the next on the agenda after the vision has been conceived? Yes, there is a vision but it does not stop there. A vision has inevitable consequences. A vision leads to a vocation. With a vision comes a mission and a goal. There are challenges on the way; for the goal of a vision comes with a price tag. There is a price to be paid or the vision will die.
Many visions fade away and die because the leader fails to act on them. And dead visions have calamitous effects on an organization’s all-around growth. Vision could become stagnate in the process of change unless it is replaced by similar and equal alternatives.
Vision without purpose often breeds skepticism in the workforce. If an organization is reputed for stillborn visions, its workforce gradually becomes fatalistic skeptics, who regard talks about change with an upturned nose and relish, keeping business on as usual. So where there is no drive to actualize a vision, one should not dive into the vision trip. A stagnated vision is more likely to harm the psyche of an organization.
Therefore let there be action after the birth of a vision. A vision not acted upon is useless. An improper action on the other hand is more dangerous. So let the action be right and appropriately gear towards launching the vision into its operational orbit. Sharing the vision with the workforce through communication isn’t enough. If staff are not wisely engaged, and money or machines not set in pursuit of the goals of the vision, the vision could remain just only a fine success on paper!
Things to do within the lifespan of a vision
* Alignment of the values with the vision: An organization’s values must not be at variance with the vision. For example, integrity is the core value of any organization that aspires to genuine greatness. The pursuit of a new vision shouldn’t tempt the organization to compromise this core value. A vision pursued at the expense of an organization’s core values will backfire and cost the organization its reputation. If an organization loses its reputation, the dividends of its vision won’t save it from going under.
* Adjustment of the leadership style to suit the implementation of the vision: With a new vision, a new social context emerges; and
the work situation may change such that the old way of doing
things may no longer apply. For example, democracy may give way for autocracy if the vision introduces the workforce to tasks about which they possess minimal knowledge. In this situation, workers have to be told what to do and initiative isn’t encouraged. Conversely, if the new tasks are familiar and the workforce has the requisite skills, autocratic leadership would be inappropriate. Barring minimal supervision, workers may be left to handle things themselves. Usually, effective leaders combine all leadership styles.
* Communicating the Vision periodically to sustain efforts for its realization. There is the tendency to lose focus and discount commitment if the vision isn’t talked about for a long period. The workforce needs the constant reminder that they are on a journey and a detour or defection would delay arrival at the dreamland. They need to be held under the vision’s spell by constant motivation through good communication.
* Assessing the value of the vision in the light of social events: As an organization is moving in a new direction, it is necessary to conduct periodic assessment of the vision’s current value and relevance, lest it discovers on arriving at the vision’s goal that the world has moved on. Periodically check on events and the landscape to see what changes are looming and the effect they may have on the vision.
* Abandon the vision if events show it has lost its relevance. Yes, a vision in the physical realm isn’t foolproof even in its most developed state. So it is strange if a leader holds on to a vision that is no longer relevant or productive, instead of reforming it or dropping it to allow him to dream another dream.
Since visioning is so central to effective leading, a leader should steer its vision away from certain danger zones. George Barna has written a splendid paper on this subject. He identifies six vision killers that the leader should avoid like a plague. Although Barna writes from a spiritual perspective, his “six killers” can also strike in the secular worlds.
1. Tradition. A leader may shy away from visioning if he finds no record of visionary projects in the organization. He may reason that if the organization has always been run without putting it through the rigor and pains of adventure, there may not be a need for it.
2. Fear. The vision calls for change at a price. Its pursuit may tear down the “old” order of things radicalizing the organization. This is risky. For those who are wary of rocking the boat, a vision is a scary travel-mate. For it might call for the deployment of new skills and the laying off of some old hands. A leader may be short of boldness to handle all this. Yet, by its sheer adoption, vision releases fresh courage, energy, and hope. A leader should find strength and faith in these attributes to conquer the fear of uncertainties that a vision unleashes.
3. Stereotypes. For our purpose, a stereotype is a popular preconception about the products or services the organization offers. For example, it is a popular belief that many people are cutting down on sugar and beef for health reasons. So why would a CEO nurture the vision to expand the production base of his sugar factory? Yet, a close examination could reveal that only a class of the populace might be avoiding sugar while the rest are even obsessed with its use. Stereotypes should not be allowed to weaken the resolve to advance the fortunes of an organization. Always facts finding and checking on information to ascertain their authenticity.
4. complacency. George Barna counsels leaders to test their passion quotient in seeking visions. Leaders should also repeat the test when the vision is really on. Complacency either blocks the birth of visions or kills them at birth.
5. Fatigue. Fatigue comes from a lack of rest between vision intervals. Therefore, a leader shouldn’t overdrive his workforce lest they grow weary and slide from motivation to indifference.
6. Short-term thinking. Short-term thinking is an obsession with quick results. But the vision trip isn’t a sprint. Fatigue and myopia produce a strong aversion for visioning; and leaders had better avoid them.
Prayer for the day : God let my visions click.