Paint the Vision

As I prepare for the MBA class on leadership I’ll be teaching this summer, I was thinking about all of critical components. Tom Landy, a great football coach, once said that Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”  The most important element is vision – to inspire people to do what you want them to do.

Unfortunately, many leaders assume people know and are committed to the vision, so instead of focusing on it, they give it short shift and focus on the management issues concerning activities. When the stakes are high, that’s a mistake.

One of the best descriptions of vision was offered last century by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

All too often we get lost in the management details and forget that it’s the vision that inspires people to take on the hardships that might be required to achieve the goal. Building a ship takes a lot of work, and can at time be quite draining, in terms of the workload, the doubts that might arise, etc. – as is true for many creative endeavors. Think of Noah’s very long-term commitment to build his ark!  Yet, to get people to make the commitment to prevent hunger, end cancer, or create a transformative new venture, it’s the commitment to the vision of how the world will look afterwards that provides fuel to overcome the challenges.  Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley from Pepsi  to Apple Computers by asking whether he wanted to be the best at selling soda (i.e., brown sugar water) or “make a dent in the universe”.

So, when you recruit people to your new venture, be sure to paint a powerful vision. Share with us your company’s vision statement to inspire other leaders.

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