As a leader, no matter how many decisions you make or actions you take, nothing matters as much as your ability to bring people with different experiences and interests together in a common purpose that gives them a clear sense of direction and drives them toward excellence. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in your organization for some time, there’s a reason you’ve been given the opportunity to be in your position at this time in your life — and it’s likely to be more important than you realize. It’s worth asking whether you’re focusing too much on what is and not enough on what could be. Find the reason and transform it into your vision.
Create A Powerful Vision that Captures Your Purpose and Passion
Start by deeply reflecting on why you are doing what you’re doing. Imagine, for example, what it would really look and feel like, if the children and young people in your program really developed the skills they’ll need to succeed in school and in life.
- What if they were really excited about learning and open to new ideas?
- What if they had strong social and emotional skills, made friends easily and related with each other in caring, compassionate and empathetic ways?
- What if they communicated clearly and collaborated enthusiastically?
- What if they were able to think critically, solve problems creatively and make decisions responsibly?
- What if they could navigate through rapidly changing technologies proficiently and create new knowledge on their own?
- How much better off would they be now, and in the years ahead, if they had a can-do attitude and an optimistic view of their future?
If this is the difference you want to make and the legacy you want to leave, holding it as your vision will matter more than you might think. It will set a process in motion. It will shift your focus from what you’re doing to the impact you’re capable of having. It will create a sense of urgency and excitement that will inspire people to co-create the future together. And it will add a sense of purpose and meaning to everything everyone does. If this is already happening, you’re well on your way. If not, don’t let a missed opportunity become a lost opportunity.
Share Your Vision and Shape the Future
Holding a powerful vision starts with you, but it doesn’t end there. Until everyone truly believes that what they’re doing together is much more valuable than what anyone could do alone, your program may accomplish something, but never as much as it could. A shared vision comes about when people aspire to creating the same future and experience the same feelings about that future. It provides a common language, a sense of belonging and an excitement about the value of everyone’s work. And, most importantly, it unleashes the power of people to work together to achieve more than you, and they, could in any other way.
You have much more influence on how this unfolds than you may think. In almost all cases, people buy into a leader before they buy into a vision. It’s up to you to make the connection between what is and what could be. Make it easy for them to follow your lead. Show up and stand up every day. Give people something to believe in, something to work toward and something that gives meaning to their lives. Give them the freedom to interpret your vision through the filter of their own emotions. If the words they use aren’t exactly the same as yours, who cares?
A Reality Check…
- Do you have a powerful, compelling vision of what could be?
- Does your vision capture people’s emotions and inspire them to do their best work?
- Does it give a sense of purpose to your life, and theirs?
- Is it shared throughout your organization?
- Does it drive you and everyone else toward excellence?
When your staff know where they’re going, fall in love with the destination and see that you’re able to lead them there, everything changes. In Maya Angelou’s words, the horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change. Take advantage of the opportunity to create a powerful, compelling and shared vision of what could be, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving remarkable results and accomplishing more than you could in any other way!
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Sharing the Vision, Shaping the Future: A Guide to Developing Exemplary Practices in the 21st Century. Please join me at the BOOST Conference to learn more!
For breakfast, I had yoghurt, blueberries, granola, and coffee. Breakfast of champions!