What makes a leader’s vision last the test of time? Why is it so important that you build a vision that lasts beyond your leadership tenure? If you look at great organizations you soon discover that they play a bigger role in their world than the other organizations in their markets. Today people are looking for organizations that touch our lives in many different ways. We are looking to belong to something that goes beyond our own lives to touch others.
There are four key elements to creating a vision that lasts beyond the life of the person who first established the vision in our minds. I think of President John F. Kennedy’s vision of going to the moon before the decade is over as a great example of vision that transcended time and space. How do we create a bigger vision for ourselves, our organizations, and the partnerships we lead?
The first element to a breakthrough vision is it must be aspirational. It must inspire others to want to help it become a reality. It may include definable goals or results. It must be easy to see if we have achieved these goals or objectives. Ultimately, people must be able to see we can achieve this goal together.
The second element of a breakthrough vision is that it must be compelling. A compelling vision must get others to take action on it. It must be crystal clear why we must achieve the goal. This vision should move people’s thinking to a different time or place. It should be a desirable future that we hope to achieve. Small ideas are not compelling to people. Big ideas move people to take action immediately.
The third element is that it is directional. It should provide a roadmap for you and others to follow. The further down the path, the more likely you need to know what the next steps are. People must become clear on what is to be accomplished and how to know they’ve achieved it. The direction is clear for everyone to see.
The final element of a lasting vision is that it’s easy to communicate to others. You must be willing to share your vision to help get other people involved in supporting your objectives. It must be easy for others to see the benefit of achieving your vision. Using powerful language and media to support your message is critical if you hope to achieve your vision over several years. Helping others see how this vision impacts them so they can share it helps take your vision to a higher level than you might have imagined when you began creating your vision.
Successful organizations look for opportunities to share their vision with others. They do not try to own their vision. They allow others to share it in a way that moves other people to take action. In many ways by creating a compelling vision we are given temporary ownership to our dreams. We must be willing to share it openly while protecting its core principles, not knowing just how it will become real in our world. We must be willing to watch as our vision evolves and, ultimately, becomes an agent of change in our world.
Over the years I have seen many visionary leaders but few whose vision can sustain itself beyond the original form of the founding creator. The challenge in a connected world is that we are all moving at light speed every day. Everything in the world is changing so rapidly. Can any vision hope to keep up? Only time will tell but if you keep these elements in your visioning process you will discover that many of your visions will help change the world today.
Next week we will discuss a leader whose vision and courage changed our world forever, Abraham Lincoln. As you read next week, think about how Lincoln used the four elements we talked about today in his vision of a United States.