Leadership Is All About Sharing a Vision

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One of the greatest challenges any leader has in regard to team development is clarifying and sharing a vision.  Without a clear vision the leader is crippled in his or her ability to develop a team concept.  Vision and team development is an evolutionary process.  According to Wellin, Byham, and Wilson:

In an empowered organization, the best guidance comes from the team’s understanding of the organization’s vision and values.  It cannot come from the rules or books of procedure; that is not empowerment.  No book of procedures can answer all the questions that arise, and manuals are quickly outdated.   This vision of the organization tells the team in which direction the organization is going and what it plans to accomplish.  The organization’s values tell the team how to accomplish the vision.  Values are the subtle control mechanisms that informally sanction or prohibit behavior. 1

The first goal of a team leader is the establishment of a team vision.  Burt Nanus argues, “A vision is a realistic, credible, attractive future for an organization.” 2

A shared vision for any organization involves attempting to define a distinct future.  From the sharing of a unified vision must come a clear definition of what “vision” will create for an organization.  Burt Nanus gives a clear and concise definition:

“A vision is only an idea or an image of a more desirable future for the organization, but the right vision is an idea so energizing that it in effect jump-starts the future by calling forth skills, talents, and resources to make it happen.” 3

In support of his definition of vision Nanus give four accommodating foundational statements:

  1. The right vision attracts commitment and energizes people.
  2. The right vision creates meaning in workers’ lives.
  3. The right vision establishes a standard of excellence.
  4. The right vision bridges the present and future. 4

To build upon a vision, those who are in leadership must entrust the development of that vision to others.  The “how-to’s” of a vision must be released by the visionary to others for successful accomplishment of the vision. 5

According to Reggie McNeal, a true leader leads “from the future.”  Vision, in other words, is the domain of leadership.  The visionary does not live in the past but rather seeks to create a new future.  Thus, McNeal observes that a true visionary is one who does not accept the present as the final conclusion but is rather “drawing up plans and supervising bridge-building projects to link the present with a better future they have seen.” 6

Bob Dale adds to the definition and purpose of a leader and his/her vision when he writes:

“The first task of the leader . . . is to focus the group’s vision.  Leaders help followers become more conscious of their own needs, values, self-definition, and purposes. Leaders serve their followers instead of the other way around.  The act of consciousness raising calls for an unusual level of self-differentiation on the part of the leaders. 7

The vision of the leader along with his values provides what Dale says is the rudder that “keeps their emotional and spiritual ships steady and on course.” 8  Samuel A. Culber says,

“Our commitment to the goals of the organization for which we work exceeds the money we receive for our efforts.  We are committed to our jobs because of the opportunities that they provide us to do something personally meaningful with our lives.” 9

The goal of a visionary is to aim above and beyond compensation.  The treasure of the visionary is the fruit of the task, not how much the job pays.  A common and shared vision unites any team.

Attempting to develop a team without a unifying vision is difficult if not impossible.  Team leadership calls upon the leader to set the standard for the team.  In short, a leader’s success in establishing a team-based organization will demand a high level of commitment to both work and co-workers and a clear vision.

Dale Roach

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  1. Richard S. Wellins, William C. Byham, and Heanne M. Wilson, Empowered Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991), 78.
  2. Burt Nanus, Visionary Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1992), 8.
  3. Burt Nanus, Visionary Leadership
  4. Burt Nanus, Visionary Leadership, 15-19.
  5. Wellins, Byham, and Wilson, Empowered Change, 93.
  6. Reggie McNeal, Revolution in Leadership (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 82.
  7. Bob Dale, Good News from Great Leaders (New York: The Alban Institute, 1992), 7.
  8. Bob Dale, Good News from Great Leaders 
  9. Samuel A.  Culbert, The Organization Trap and How to Get out of It (New York: Basic Books, 1974), 152.
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