On Vision and Leadership

Mind's Eye

“The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust

On Vision & Leadership

As an executive coach you are parachuted into different organizations to work with leaders. One of the first questions I ask an organizational leader is what is your vision. Many have to think about that question for a minute before explaining that they do not have one or that they cannot recall it at the moment.

VisionSome will share their vision and I will ask if I go an interview employees from around the company will they share the same vision with me.

Often the response is, “I would like to think so.”

As you dig further into the vision of the organization you arrive at some convoluted and unclear set of words that you would never now if you accomplished them or not.

The Everest Test

Is your vision statement like that. Will it pass the Everest test. You know, if you set out for an expedition to climb Everest as your vision you would know that you arrived and know that you had accomplished it looking back.

Passion and Vision

Defining Your Vision

So how does one define their vision?

Jim Collin’s suggests asking three questions to determine your vision (Jim Collin’s Vision Framework):

  1. What can you be world best at?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What drives your economic engine?

These are really helpful questions if you take them to the extreme. It provides a clarity that you can get no other way.

As and executive coach, I so often find CEOs, Executive Directors, or Managing Partners not being pushed far enough on becoming clear in their answer to these questions. The difficult issue for leaders is to answer the questions and care about that answer. Many leaders care more about the hierarchy than the vision and mission that they are there to serve.

They run the numbers and it is the numbers that drive them rather than looking at those numbers as a measurement of progress of achieving their vision.

Using Better Tools

I use a tool I have developed to help companies Vision statement worksheet . It asks the leader and their team to determine what is the measurement of their success (Collin’s economic engine).

What I have learned in this work is that simply saying your financial measurements as the yardstick in your vision is like pouring water on a fire. Your people do not care about that number. Your company or organization originally was founded  on a purpose to change something for someone. It was set up to meet an unfulfilled need. The founder discovered this need and along the way they or some leader who followed realized it could be exploited. And it grew then somewhere along the lines the willingness to exploit exceeded the need of the market.

  • Where are you taking your company and why?
  • Are you simply replacing some competitive product that is equally good?
  • Or are you driving real value in those you produce goods or service for?

If you are not, then perhaps you need to reach for a higher vision.

Seeing An Example

If your company produces safety products for food production perhaps the greater world needs you more than your current market. I am not suggesting leaving the market you’re in, but harvesting it for expansions into the world in which the need for what you sell is greater than the market you already serve.

Instead of putting another bell or whistle on your product in the local market think about the global market as a way to live more passionately with protecting the world’s food supply.

Now this is something that others can get behind!

Seeing Over The Horizon

“Vision,” Jonathan Swift wrote, “is the art of seeing things invisible.

Many organizations struggle with their vision because they only look to the horizon and not past it.

The idea of vision goes back to a term that says we must look past the horizon for something that can only be seen in the mind’s eye but not really seen by our senses.

It speaks to something that can been seen but not by common sight of the eye.

The greatest difference between a manager and a great leader may lay in the ability to envision a future and bring others into the state together. To carry out things bigger than ourselves we must first have to imagine that place, outcome, or success!

For Instance…

If you are an Olympic athlete and you believe you can be the best skier in the world, but lack the passion to seek that vision, you will not earn the gold and win. Or in business if you are determining what industry or market to serve (and many could use your services,) which one will you focus on. Which one do you want to be world best at serving.

Bringing clarity to your vision is one of the greatest gifts that you can bring to your teams. So what are you doing to clarify your vision by defining your passions, understanding what you can be world-class in, and by knowing what drives your economic engine? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Gary Cohen is Author, Speaker (on leadership) & Executive Coach at CO2 Partners
He serves clients with executive coaching and leadership coaching services


Image Sources: api.ning.com, acespower.com, sifampharma.com

6 responses to “On Vision and Leadership

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention On Vision and Leadership « Linked 2 Leadership -- Topsy.com·

  2. Gary,
    A very good article! While you didn’t mention it directly, this practice is implied: people have to analyze their situation – dig into all of the messy ambiguities – as part of the visioning process. Otherwise it is simply dreaming. The two links to the exercises force some of this analysis.

    The Collins-question of “What drives your economic engine?” is a good one, but my personal experience in asking it is that a *good* answer requires hard analysis/thinking. My experience is that unless there is some patient coaching, people are seldom able to do sustain the hard work all the way to a usable vision.


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