"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion." --Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame
"There's nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can't clearly articulate why we're doing what we're doing." --James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your written organizational mission statement and your vision statement. The vision of leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of your organizations leaders.
The ReCellular Leadership Vision
ReCellular, Inc. is a mid-sized company that refurbishes, repairs and resells wireless phones and other electronic devices. Not only does the company keep millions of pounds of these devices out of landfills, they make thousands of products available for re-use. In recent years, a major source of the products recycled is charitable and donation partners who receive funds for their missions of service in return. (These partners include the March of Dimes and the International Myeloma Foundation.)
Now, if you are an environmentally-committed person and care about the millions of electronic devices that can potentially reside in landfills, this leadership vision is most appealing. Additionally, the opportunity to serve many charitable and environmental causes while working simultaneously appeals to another group of vision, mission-driven people. The ReCellular leadership vision is powerful.
The leadership vision is powerful because the senior managers and leaders believe in the vision and mission. Not just a statement hanging on a wall, the leadership vision is even more powerful because people live the leadership vision every single day at work. Employees are not just processing wireless devices to make money for company owners, they are saving the tiniest babies or providing a safe haven for abused women. Can a vision get any more powerful than this?
Leadership Vision Fundamentals
While your organization may not have such an intrinsically compelling vision as ReCellular, your leaders can inspire with their own vision. In fact, most businesses were started because the founder had a vision about what he or she could create. Sharing that vision with others in a way that compels them to act is the secret to a successful leadership vision.
These are the fundamentals necessary for a vision that excites and motivates people to follow the leader. The vision must:
- Clearly set organizational direction and purpose;
- Inspire loyalty and caring through the involvement of all employees;
- Display and reflect the unique strengths, culture, values, beliefs and direction of the organization;
- Inspire enthusiasm, belief, commitment and excitement in company members;
- Help employees believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work;
- Be regularly communicated and shared;
- Challenge people to outdo themselves, to stretch and reach.
Characteristics of a Successful Leadership Style
Much is written about what makes successful leaders. I will focus on the characteristics, traits and actions that, I believe, are key.
- Choose to lead.
- Be the person others choose to follow.
- Provide vision for the future. (Current article - you are here.)
- Provide inspiration.
- Make other people feel important and appreciated.
- Live your values. Behave ethically.
- Set the pace through your expectations and example.
- Establish an environment of continuous improvement.
- Provide opportunities for people to grow, both personally and professionally.
- Care and act with compassion.