People with vision are responsible for some of the most profound changes in history, government, technology, social enterprise, culture, education and health. These visions have, in many cases, radically and positively changed peoples lives. Vision helps us see tomorrow more enthusiastically, lean into change more confidently, and take bold steps more consistently. Vision is a leadership imperative.
You have to believe in your vision. You really do. Without it, it’s hard to contemplate a future that is better, brighter and bigger than our current reality.
The problem we face is that vision is not enough. We need vision “and.”
I sat in a circle of deeply committed people as we closed out the annual leadership planning retreat. This group was engaged, devoted and sacrificial. They were “all in” when it came to vision. And yet there was a restlessness in the room. We were running fast on the treadmill of vision only to stop for breath and realise we had made no forward progress. The quiet, yet honest cry of the room, came from one person when they implored our leader “Just tell us where and when you want us to go and we will go there!”
We had vision. We needed the “and.”
If we placed vision firmly in the centre of a triangle the three ‘ands’ are people, strategy, and culture as supporting pillars. Vision needs people to carry it, a strategy to direct it and a culture to shape it. Add this up and you have a formidable formula that makes vision meaningful, practical, and attractive.
Without people to make it a reality, vision is only a dream. Jim Collins identified Packard’s Law in “How The Mighty Fall” and in doing so declared that the role of leadership was to develop enough people who were then able to carry out the vision. Vision wasn’t enough. Vision carriers were required to make it real and move it forward. Capable and committed people are fundamental to vision. You can grow bigger only when you grow broader.
Vision without strategy is just empty hope. You might be experiencing promise fatigue. The rhetoric of what is ‘going to happen’ but no actual change in activity, resourcing, or execution. Like promising train travel and never building tracks. Like believing in flight but never building a plane. Vision requires you have the how of strategy deeply embedded in making it a reality. Equally frustrating is to have the vision and allow every idea to be the strategy. Choose the path, stay the path, assess the path and correct when required.
Vision without a culture is only an idea. Culture is ‘how we do things around here.’ There isn’t necessarily one ‘right’ culture but in your leadership, you must be clear on what the culture is and how it moves the vision forward. People feel culture and then see it. Culture acts like glue that keeps us connected. It’s the handle we reach for when the train lurches, it’s the eyes we look for to remind us that ‘you got this.’
The link between people and culture is the WHO of your vision. People carry vision.
The link between people and strategy is the WHAT of your vision. Activity actualises vision.
The link between strategy and culture is the HOW of your vision. Culture connects vision.
Picture for a moment the two strong arms wrapped around the triangle of ‘Vision And.’ The foundation of engagement at the bottom, beckoning people to find their sweet spot of contribution. And the arm of execution at the top. Flexing its courage and confidence as it invites us all to stretch that little bit further and little bit higher.
I believe in vision. There’s just no stopping “vision and.”
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.