You can’t lead people without having a vision of the future. Where else would you lead them toward? You’ve got to communicate what it is that you aim to accomplish for your company if you ever want to succeed in your mission.
Sure, you can manage staff to do their tasks on time and on budget, however, the business will soon tether. Vision asserts what you believe is possible for the future. It provides meaning to the mission while your vision may (or may not) inspire and compel the people (and the resources) that you need to attract to accomplish your desired future. A vision is about leading people in the right direction. About creating a cause that is greater than the job itself, to create a strong emotional attachment. Without a vision, the entire operation is adrift.
If vision is so fundamental to leadership and to success, why do business schools spend hardly any time teaching students how to create a vision?
Some business books bolster the idea of having a vision statement, pointing to some magic one-liner. Take for instance Linkedin’s vision statement: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” In all fairness, this is such a generic statement that it can be applied to almost any multinational. I love to read Linkedin’s vision document, however, I couldn’t find it anywhere online.
A Vision Document is a document that describes a compelling idea, project or other future state for a particular organization, product or service. The Vision defines the product/service to be developed specified in terms of the stakeholder’s key needs and desired features. Containing an outline of the envisioned core requirements, it provides the contractual basis for the more detailed technical requirements.
Vision, change, and leadership
Brian Solis ironically quoted Howard Aiken: “If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats”.
Obviously, this is not the way to drive emotional attachment. Brian went on by stating: “Disruptive ideas are often met with predictable opposition. The fate of any idea is dictated by the emotional aspects of engagement. Change is difficult. Egos are rampant. Self-preservation is instinct. This why ideas that challenge conventions or beliefs lead to instant disagreement, antagonism, hostility, and even sabotage.”
As it appears, vision, change, and leadership is interlinked ─ it is about what you foresee for the future. To get others to buy into that future, you’ll need a convincing case. Like change, a vision is bound to find opposition. Likewise, if you want to differentiate your business from the competition, you’ll have to be willing to break things and face the resistance.
Interview with Michael Hyatt
Michael Hyatt, author of the book A Vision Driven Leader, decided to fill in the blank, left by others. In an interview with Donald Miller, founder of Storybrand, Hyatt explains the differences between a manager and a leader:
- Leaders create a vision; managers execute the vision.
- Leaders inspire and motivate; managers maintain and administer.
- Leaders take risks; managers control risk.
- Leaders focus on the horizon; managers have their eye on short-term goals and objectives.
Hyatt believes a company needs a vision because ‘clarity excels momentum’. Vision creates alignment while alignment accelerates momentum. Vision also helps to attract the right people and helps to say goodbye to those that don’t align. According to Hyatt, there are four characteristics to an inspiring vision:
- Focus on what isn’t (Uber taxi-app, not owning a single cab)
- Focus on the exponential, not the incremental (iPhone)
- Focus on being risky but not being stupid
- Focus on the what not the how (mission and strategy is about the how – strategy is irrelevant until you have a vision)
The vision document (Hyatt prefers ‘vision script’) should at least address four categories:
Please let me know if this post made you rethink the importance of vision.
The four categories match our Product Carousel, in which we’ve divided Cooperation (team), Creation (product), Competition (marketing), and Connection (impact) over four quarters.