Is a Leader Without a Vision a Leader Without a Destination?

A reader called me recently to tell me about her boss’ claim that the 25,000 employee company didn’t a need a vision.

“Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do,” the boss had told her. “Why do they think they have to have a vision?”

I suspected the boss recalls the time when it was faddish to have alliterative, substance-absent vision statements tacked up on the corporate walls. They had a lot to do with keeping corporate HR and communication departments busy and nothing to do with increasing competitive advantage.

I suggested to the caller that she drop the word vision from the conversation with her boss and merely say you believe people are more productive when they have a clear picture of the results they’re trying to create–whether it’s a business, a sport or cooking.

I used an example from my book, The Leadership Solution. Two people are trying to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle. I reveal to one person the cover of the puzzle box that depicts the completed puzzle. I don’t show the picture of the completed puzzle to the second person. Who’s more likely to complete the puzzle first?

Of course, the one who saw the picture of the completed puzzle. She’s seen what it looks like when we’re “there”.

A corporate vision is merely a picture of the future we’re trying to create. It’s our destination. It’s why we’re doing all the things we do when we go to work each day.

Properly created, a corporate vision brings the leadership together as one team headed for a specific destination. Then it harnesses the energy of the rest of the organization to efficiently get to the destination.

While the vision is the target, the strategy is the roadmap, how you’re going to create the vision.

A vision needs to be specific, not corporate blah, blah, blah. It needs to depict the future company. In our strategy-vision workshops with leaders, we ask questions that stimulate a lot of discussion about the future and what it will look like. Here are 10 from our list of 20.

  • In what parts of the world do we want to be operating?
  • What will our core products and services be?
  • What markets and distribution channels will be most important to us?
  • What technology or proprietary know-how will we possess
  • Why will customers buy our products or services?
  • How will we differentiate ourselves against the competition?
  • How will we organize?
  • What will our leadership philosophy be?
  • How will employees feel about working with us?
  • What values will drive everything we do?
  • What performance will we have achieved?
  • What will our image and reputation be?
  • How do you want to describe our company to your children and grandchildren?

The discussion creates a well-defined picture of the future that brings the leaders together—sometimes for the first time.

Properly communicated, it then gives direction to the people whose daily work determines whether we, in fact, get “there” or not.

Does your organization have a well-defined destination?

How do you know?

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