As a leader, your ‘Vision’ must be compelling


I’ve just been sitting with an eclectic mix of ‘leaders’ at a session for my level 7 Strategic Leadership Certificate with Nigel Girling, (Engage for Success Task Force) and one of the discussions we had was around vision. The discussions we had with resonated with me having been in small entrepreneurial organisations, through SME’s and major corporates where I’ve tried to figure out what a vision really is and how Leaders might inspire people to join them on the journey. I learned that a Vision wasn’t what someone tells you it is, it’s so much more, needs engagement with the staff and probably changes depending where you are on the route…. 

As a word, Vision is quite ‘visionary’ and so loved by marketing departments and Executive boards, suggesting we have an idea of where we want to go, be that away from where we are now (which is not a good place), or towards a brighter and better future. Sounds great…

However, a lot of ‘Blue Sky thinking’ has proven to be … well… Blue Sky thinking, and without substance, that’s what a vision is. Like engagement, where you have to give people something to be engaged about, if you want people to follow they have to know what, how (what input they have) and why they are following, which means a “route map” to the “destination” over the coming years. As Nigel Girling suggests: the process might be A-D-C-B…. where A is our current position, described in terms of a wide range of indicators of performance, outcome, status and magnitude. We then need to set a vision of where we want to get by point D – years ahead – and then describe a suitable mid-point, point C, before going on to establish what that requires us to achieve by point B, which may only be 6 months to a year away.

Simon Sinek says it well when he discusses that we must communicate the WHY we are doing what we are doing as this connects to our emotion. We all know the What, many know How but few generally know the Why or the purpose!” (In our Cultural surveys at RyderMarsh OCAID we interview groups of people, from board to front line, face to face, asking the WHY they feel how they feel, not just What they feel, about various aspects of their culture. It’s incredible the impact the “Leader” has on any group of people they are leading, in terms of engagement, and all that goes with that, so it’s critical that all layers of ‘leaders’ understand and buy into the Vision.

David Marquet has a fascinating little you tube clip around this theme on the principle of Followership – creating leaders at all levels, which might be worth a look). 

If your Vision resonates with your people and talks about the things they care about, then all stakeholders will benefit as a result from all the positive things engagement brings, leading to improved safety, which leads to improved productivity, collaboration and innovation and of course sustainability of the organisation.

If your Vision is compelling and your people trust you and they will have an input into the ‘journey’ then they will ‘engage’ with it, especially if it matters to them on an emotional level. I always suggest that if we can get our message on to the ‘radio station’ that we all listen to i.e. WIIFM (I’m sure you’ve all heard it at some time). “What’s In It For Me”then you’re onto a winner.

 So, start the music as soon as you can else it might just be “ The final countdown”.

By Kevin Hard

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