There are numerous ways to generate and bring forth a vision. The most powerful way seems to be to have leaders (whether first-line supervisors, senior vice-presidents, or CEOs) sit down with their team, talk about the corporate vision, and ask what it means to the team and to the individuals on the team. Critical questions need to be asked, wrestled with, and discussed. Questions such as: Why is this vision important to our jobs? What does this vision do for us? What does it mean for our customers? What does the vision say to you? How does it change the ways we work and go about doing our jobs? What difference does it make? What difference should it make? How do we feel about this vision? How do we live day by day? How will we measure our success in doing our part to make the vision a reality?
At EQIQ Leadership, we believe that in order for you, as an individual member of a company, to answer those questions, you must turn to a much more intensely personal level: What is it you wish to become? What is your own personal vision and sense of mission? What are you aiming for in your life? These questions become critical when you take into account Max DePree’s viewpoint at Herman Miller: “Our organizations cannot become anything more than we desire them to be.” Here is where Stephen R. Covey formulated the personal part of self-empowerment in urging his readers to define their personal vision and mission in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He suggests that you must clarify the key roles you play in life: parent, mentor, supervisor, spouse, and so on, and develop a sense of the mission around each of them. I suggest that this is important, and yet it is also critical that you develop an overall, integrated vision for your entire life. Unless we know what we truly aspire to be and what our individual sense of purpose is, we are rudderless in the rapidly shifting currents of the modern world.
Covey talks about the need for an orientation mechanism, such as an inner compass, as opposed to a map. The terrain is changing so fast that the maps are out of date before the ink is dry. A sense of what your life is about, your own sense of mission, and some guiding principles that provide a means for orienting and directing your life, are vital to creating the life experience you desire.
This is the beginning of personal power and also real power for a leader. If I, as an individual leader, consciously know and articulate my vision for working with others, a vision of the kind of person and leader I am striving to be, then I am way ahead of most managers, supervisors, and leaders.
The kind of vision I am talking about communicates itself across the four fundamental drivers of leadership effectiveness. It conveys to others your commitment and passion. It focuses and directs your competencies while pointing to the competencies you need to develop. This vision carries within it the roots of an uncompromising integrity, and finally, it allows for an intimacy with others and yourself that allows you to be accessible to learning and to the processes of change. Vision orchestrates and illuminates the four great chambers while forming the living heart of leadership, which drives long-term results and builds sustaining relationships.
To create real personal power, it is critical that you develop your own personal vision and a sense of your deepest longings for meaning. To get you on your way, try this exercise, which is one of the ones we use in our foundational leadership training.
Imagine you are on your deathbed. You have twenty minutes left to live and you are reviewing your life. What does your life look like? What are you proud of? What are you disappointed in? How have you lived your life? What was the meaning of this life? What was your purpose in living the way you lived and doing the things you did? If you could go back and change any part of it, what would you change? Why? Look really hard at the values your life demonstrated. If you had to come up with an epitaph for this life, what would it be?
Now: How would you like to be living? What meaning would you like your life to have? If you could have a new lease on life and begin again, what would you choose as your guiding star? What are you really here to accomplish and to do? What vision do you have of the life you’d like to create? What is your sense of mission?
Pause for a moment and write down a brief statement of vision and mission for your life. Put down something, even if it feels incomplete. Try to capture some of the longing and deep feeling in your heart. Stop reading and just write for the next 15 minutes. Take time during the next few weeks to revisit these questions and wrestle with them. They are worth answering and critical to your development as a real leader. Revisit this exercise and think about its implications for the way you are living and working.
Writing down your vision and the attendant goals is very powerful. A 50-year longitudinal study at Harvard has looked at the people there who have been the most successful in enjoying their lives and in creating great achievements. What it found was that class rank, grade point average, and activity levels in college were not highly correlated with great success. The single most influential factor found which distinguished the most successful students from the rest, was that they had a habit of writing down their goals, aspirations, and desires and revisiting them frequently.
Knowing your heart is the first step on the pathway to discovering your personal power.
This post has been excerpted from my book The Heart of Leadership: 12 Practices of Courageous Leaders.