Tip For Leading Well: Renew Your Vision

I’m currently teaching an undergraduate class on Organizational Leadership, and one of the key topics we recently discussed was vision. This is one of those words and concepts that evokes various emotions, with many people getting excited about the idea of vision and others thinking, “Oh no, here we go again with the vision talk.”

The reality is, vision is essential for energizing and focusing any organization on achieving something of significance, whether it be a business, start-up, non-profit, school, or church. As Bill Hybels likes to say, Vision is one of the most potent weapons in a leader’s arsenal.” It’s potent because it can inspire passion in people and enable them to see the possibilities that the future holds.

How do you define vision? There are different ways to think about it; here are a few:

Most people would say that vision is a preferred picture of the future–a picture of what could be. Hybels says it’s a “picture of the future that produces passion in people.”

In her book Dare to Serve, Cheryl Bachelder talks about creating a “Daring Destination” for your team — a high aspiration that energizes and mobilizes them toward high performance.

In Built to Last, Jim Collins & Jerry Poras introduced the idea of a BHAG — Big Hairy Audacious Goal. A BHAG is a huge, bold challenge that is clear, compelling, unifying, and focused.

All of these are great ways to look at vision, and each of them can be helpful to you as you work to create a clear and compelling vision. But at the end of the day, how you define it is not near as important as whether or not you (a) create it, and (b) pursue it.

So the tip for leading well is this: take time to renew your vision of the future for yourself, your team, and your organization. Find out what produces passion in you and your people. And then, commit to taking massive action toward that vision. You’ll never regret it! Now is the time.

Why Your Church Needs a Compelling Vision

Vision can be a powerful force for any organization, inspiring people to collectively band together by using their gifts and talents to achieve something great–something bigger than any individual could ever achieve alone. I especially believe that vision can be transformative for churches, where the overarching purpose is (or at least should be) to transform lives and communities. Here is a quote that I think sums up the importance of vision to the church:

“The catalyst for introducing and facilitating change in the local church is a God-honoring, mouthwatering, unambiguously clear vision.” -Andy Stanley (Deep & Wide, p. 270)

Does your church have a vision–a preferred picture of the future? Is it clear? Does it inspire your people to contribute their time and abilities in order to pursue it? If not, take a moment to watch this short video of me speaking on the need to develop a compelling vision. Getting clarity about the long-term vision for your church is essential if you desire to have lasting impact in your local community and ultimately the world.


Six Characteristics of a Compelling Vision

Having a vision for your organization means seeing a preferred picture of the future and then setting a plan in motion to make that picture become reality. Vision is a powerful catalyst for change because it can galvanize a group of people to collectively work together to achieve something of significance—something they would not be able to accomplish on their own. Great organizations understand the power of vision, and they know where they are headed because they have a vivid picture of the future that inspires passion in their people.

Vision HandOn the flip side, many organizations suffer from a lack of vision. This is usually due to the fact that the leader has not created a compelling picture of the future, and as a result, employees are not fully engaged in their work. They may be doing good things on a daily basis, but they are not inspired. Why? A lack of passion for pursuing a larger vision that brings out the best in them.

Deep down inside, most people want to be part of a successful organization that has a vision of the future for achieving something great. All they need is a leader who will cast the vision and then tell them how they can contribute to pursuing that vision.

So, how do you create a compelling vision that inspires passion in people? Use the following six characteristics as a guide, and you will be on the right track:

1) Vivid – it must be clear to your team. A vision needs to be paint a clear picture that allows people to imagine what the ideal future looks like.

2) Inspiring – it needs to connect with the heart in a way that inspires passion. When people are passionate about something, they take action.

3) Succinct – do not make the mistake of thinking your vision needs to be a long, elaborate statement. Some of the most powerful visions are the shortest ones.

4) Intentional – the vision needs to serve a clear purpose. In other words, what is the “why” for pursuing the vision?

5) Optimistic – people need to envision a future that gives them hope for something better. Many visions have been born out of difficult circumstances because someone had the courage to see a brighter day.

6) Noteworthy – a vision needs to be memorable. If your people are going to connect to the vision and pursue it daily, then they must be able to remember the vision and share it with others.

If you are a leader, when’s the last time you reflected on your organization’s vision for the future? If your organization does not have a compelling vision, you have work to do. The good news is that you can start today, and you now have a model to follow that will put you on the path toward creating a vision that inspires your people to achieve something of lasting significance.

The Innovation Imperative: Are You Talking or Doing?

Innovation One of the most frustrating things I see leaders do is to preach innovation within their organization but not back it up with any action. Everyone likes to talk about the importance of innovation, but few act upon it.

Innovation can only happen when leaders create an environment where people are encouraged and allowed to innovate. It has to become a culture shift, and for many organizations this is difficult because it requires change. But without change, there is no innovation.

So what exactly is innovation? It’s not just about creating a new product. Innovation involves the generation of new ideas. It’s about a constant pursuit of excellence and improvement.

Innovation is a mindset. It’s understanding that you have to try new things and accept the fact that you will fail along the way.

Innovation involves looking ahead and anticipating where industry shifts will take place in order to determine how customers can best be served.

How can leaders cultivate innovation?

1) Hire the right people—people who have the capacity to think strategically and embrace change. People who pursue excellence and desire to continually improve.

2) Create an environment where change can occur. This means allowing your people to explore opportunities, take risks, and question the status quo. It also means investing resources in innovative ideas and initiatives.

3) Continually communicate with your team. Leaders must lead the way when it comes to innovation. They must cast the vision for innovation and consistently reinforce that vision so that everyone understands where the organization is going and what role they play in making it a reality.

Organizations are often sitting on a wealth of intellectual capital that is being overlooked because they are too stuck in their old way of thinking. When they create a culture of innovation, that intellectual capital is unleashed and great things happen!

Whether you run a large company, school, non-profit, or church, every organization should create a culture that embraces innovation and change. This is the only way to ensure that you stay relevant and adaptable in an every-changing environment.

Two Days in August: Highlights from the 2013 Global Leadership Summit

dream1.jpgEvery time that I attend the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit I think that it can’t get better than the previous year, but every year it seems to do just that. The 2013 GLS that was held on August 8 & 9 was no exception. This two-day event brought together a stellar group of faculty who spoke to the true heart of leadership and challenged leaders to find the courage necessary to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively.

Here is a list of the highlights from the GLS that really challenged me. Any leader who wants to improve their leadership and the health of their organization could benefit greatly from applying these principles and reflecting on these valuable insights.

Bill Hybels

  • Every vision that God births in you is going to put your courage to the test.
  • Leaders often lack one thing: basic bravery.
  • Leaders must have the courage to define the current reality of their organization.
  • People join organizations; they leave managers.
  • Staff cultures will only ever be as healthy as the top leader wants them to be.
  • Some of the most rewarding experiences in a leader’s marathon often occur late in the race.

Colin Powell

  • Leaders inspire people to reach beyond themselves.
  • Each individual has a purpose; leaders must bring those together collectively to achieve the vision.
  • Take care of your “troops.” Have a destination. Execute.
  • Leaders are problem-solvers. If people stop bringing you problems, then that means they think you don’t care or won’t solve the problem.
  • When developing leaders, you have to look more at their potential than their past performance.

Patrick Lencioni

  • People leave jobs because they are miserable.
  • First sign of a miserable job: anonymity. This occurs when no one notices you or gets to know you.
  • Second sign: irrelevance. This happens when you don’t think your job matters to anyone else.
  • Third sign: immeasurement.  People need to know if they are doing a good job, and they must have some way to gauge their progress.
  • Leaders must help people connect to why they are serving others.

Joseph Grenny

  • Leadership is intentional influence.
  • Don’t just teach principles; help people connect to values.
  • Leaders must create an environment where bad behavior is harder and more conscious for people and good choices are easier and more obvious.
  • If our religious experience isn’t translating into other habits and experiences, we aren’t leading.

Vijay Govindarajan

  • Leaders must strike a balance between improving operational efficiency while also innovating for the future.
  • Three-box strategy: manage the present; selectively abandon the past; create the future.
  • Innovation Formula: Idea + Leader + Team + Plan
  • Innovation is about value for many. Do more with less (without sacrificing quality).
  • The role of an innovative leader is to be humble and to harness the abilities of their organization.

Brené Brown

  • Disengagement gap: the space between what is professed and what is practiced.
  • What kills love kills an organization.
  • If you want to be innovative, pray for lots of mistakes. Without failure, there can be no innovation.
  • Blame is the simple discharging of pain and discomfort.
  • You must choose courage or comfort, but you can’t have both.

Other Great Quotes and Insights

  • Liz Wiseman: Multipliers amplify and grow the intelligence of others.
  • Chris Brown: Don’t get caught up in the great things of leadership if they take you away from the God things of leadership.
  • Bob Goff: See people for who they are becoming.
  • Mark Burnett: Choose your companions before you choose your road.
  • Oscar Muriu: To be alone is to waste an opportunity to be a mentor.
  • Henry Cloud: Your life is a movie, not a scene. The opposite of bad is not good; the opposite of bad is love.

This is just a quick overview of the high points and key takeaways that I gleaned from the Summit. I hope you gained something from reading and pondering these insights on leadership. You really have to be there to experience the full impact of what is being shared and what you are being challenged to do as a result.

The Global Leadership Summit is simply the best leadership event I’ve ever attended. If you have not participated, make plans to attend the next one in August 2014! Learn more here.