I’m an impressionist or maybe an abstractionist. I think and speak in broad, abstract terms. That can be quite good for stirring the imagination, inspiring people, and moving them in the right general direction. There is a time for that, but there is often a greater need for realists like Bob Byerley who gave us vivid, lifelike art.1 that comes to life before our eyes.
Like artists, leaders paint inspiring vivid pictures that captivate and energize people, but unlike artists, leaders empower people for success with their vivid images. While there is a broad range of subjects for leaders to portray, there are five essentials messages for leaders to master: vision, success, strategy, role, and personal potential. In this post, I will share some practical tips for painting your vision.
Every leader needs a vision; otherwise, there is nothing and no one to follow. A leader’s vision is simply the image of the organization or team they dream of being. I prefer to describe it as the “who” an organization wants to be rather than “what it wants to accomplish,” in part, because it helps people embody an inspiring identity rather asking them to strive towards a far-off, impersonal goal.
The most important thing about a vision is that it is shared – as in common to everyone on the team. As the lead “influencer,” it’s up to the leader to build that shared vision.
Painting a Shared Vision
To effectively paint a shared vision:
- You must have one. One cannot lead unless he/she is heading somewhere or trying to be “someone.” So, you need to figure out who, at least in broad strokes, you want your team to be. Notice that this requires you step back from the day to day in order to engage your creative mind, and to express your personal will. That is the privilege and responsibility of a leader.
- Sketch your vision in “pencil,” and get help filling it out. Shared visions capture the values and desires of a “people” which typically requires them to be creations of a people rather than a person. So, invite others to help you refine your ideas – to add color and detail that reflect your shared values. It takes time to build something with team members, colleagues and stakeholders. So remember, masterpieces are not made in a single sitting but are created over time through many sittings. Don’t rush through the process.
- Put it on display as constant reminder and source of inspiration. Unless your vision is kept in front of people, it will be lost to the personal imaginations of team members and to more visible and pedestrian ideas. Inspiring visions are commonly overtaken in the minds of people by the problems of the day and the minutia of completing mundane tasks. To break through the clutter of daily muck, “advertise” your message using posters, wall art, and digital art. Adopt slogans and tell stories to continually communicate your message. Discuss your products and services, work tasks, problems, and decisions in relation to your vision. Each of those things are servants to the master – which your vision.
- Make a habit of breaking away from the daily routine to dream of your vision. Dedicate time to talk with different teams and individuals about the vision and how you are working towards it together. Doing both of these things will keep the vision alive and vibrant in your heart and those of the people you serve.
Some people mistakenly believe that visions are for the “big wigs” at the top of the company. Not true. Leadership is personal and relational, so every leader needs to have a vision worth following, and every vision needs to be vividly painted and capture the imagination of every team member.
Who are you trying to be as a leader, and who do you want your team to be?
If you need some clarifying your vision, consider calling us. Credo helps leaders find capture their personal vision and build them into team visions.
1 A signed and numbered version this painting, The Red Hen, was gifted to me by my wife and mother-in-law after they noticed my fascination with it. It captures my vision of family life and the deep restful love between a child and her mother.