Leadership Myth #3: Having a Leadership Vision is Overrated
It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., on a scorching summer day of August 1963, to hundreds of thousands of civil rights supporters that the moral leader Dr. Martin Luther King declared: "I have a dream". Indeed, what he didn't say was: "I have a plan".
Dr. Luther King painted the picture of his dream, how it was going to make a difference and shift the USA from segregation to racial justice. He didn't talk about how much it was going to cost or how many followers he needed, nor did he ask for a show of hands before leaving the podium. So what was his intention in front of the vast crowd if it wasn't to recruit for his movement?
All too often, today's leader chooses to manage over having a dream or a vision; they choose to seek consensus rather than to inspire those around them: "We need buy-in before we can move forward", is one of the much-heard excuses to explain an inability to make a decision. But did Dr. Martin Luther King seek agreement from the crowd? No. His objective was to share his dream for America, to inspire others towards a better America and to unite those who shared the same beliefs and convictions as he did. This mindset illustrates one of the key differences between a great leader and a leader who spends far too much of their working time and energy managing or, in other words, in the daily "details and drama" of operating.
As Rick Miller (Kids At Hope) once put it: "A leader understands that a dream includes everybody and is less concerned with his or her self-interest; a manager is more concerned with their own organisations (...). They may be able to think outside the box, but they cannot think outside their four walls". So which one are you and which one do you aspire to be? A leader who spends more time leading the way or more time managing processes? Don't you owe it to your team to trust and encourage them to "Go figure out the How by themselves"? Don't you owe it to your organisation to leverage your team's performance? Don't you owe it to yourself to be a leader who stands out of the crowd and creates a true impact on others?
A vision gives you both a purpose and focus in that it is your "Why-You-Do-What-You Do". Your vision unites you and your co- workers by commonality, thus creating a greater sense of community and belongingness, greater trust and rapport. And it is from this place of senses that goal achievement happens.
Indeed, it is not the resources (such as time or money or consensus), which are the defining factor behind goal-achievement and performance, but rather the resourcefulness: Do you and your team have the determination to accomplish their goals? Do you all care enough to make sure you reach them? Are the goals desired enough by the team?
So, here's the secret: Resourcefulness will help you find the resources. Because no matter how many features and benefits or facts and figures you share, there's a slim chance your co-workers will be motivated to make the necessary change in the workplace if they don't know Why-You-Do-What-You-Do.
So just like Martin Luther King fuelled the crowd's resourcefulness by sharing his vision for a better America, with what Vision will you drive your team and lead effectively?