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Leadership Vision – What does it really mean?

We hear a lot about how successful leaders of organizations are able to articulate their “vision” (for the organization) to their employees. There is no denying that part of what makes up a great leader is their ability to conceptualize what the organization is going to, or should, look like and then getting employees to buy in to and contribute towards making that vision happen. But what does that mean for the average departmental manager or divisional leader? Simply put, one of the most critical things that anyone that is charge of leading a company, office, division or department needs to do is articulate what their vision is for that group and its employees.

200px-Face-glasses_svgObviously there are going to be major difference between what the leader of a company needs to articulate as the vision vs. what a department level manager articulates. However, they both have a unique message that needs to be communicated to their employees so as to help align goals and engage the employees in their work. As a leader, you must accept that part of your responsibility is to not only have, but to articulate this vision to your staff so that they are provided the opportunity to contribute towards the achievement of the vision. Each employee needs to understand how they fit into the “machinery” and contribute towards the end product/service. Successful leaders are able to bring this vision to their staff and make it real.

To put this in context, I will give you an example of a great manager and leader I once worked for who was able to successfully do this with her staff. Her approach is one that I personally try and model as best I can today. After she would come out of executive strategic planning sessions, she was very skilled at taking all those strategic goals and objectives and plans and was able to boil them down into something that was meaningful to our team and department. She took the “corporate vision” and turned it into her own vision for our department. Obviously the two were in alignment but I found her “vision” meant something to me as it directly impacted our team and our day to day work – and it came from her….the person most responsible for the reward and recognition of MY work!

My former manager was very adept at taking the corporate , and in the form of a team meeting, articulating what this all meant for us as a group, what her broad expectations were and what we as a team (and individuals) could do to successfully contribute towards that vision. She concluded her communication of the department vision (her vision) by having one-on-one meetings with her direct reports where we sat down and carved out goals and objectives for the coming year that aligned with her vision and ultimately the corporate vision. This not only created the connection and engagement required with her staff, but also established buy-in, ownership and accountability towards the achievement of goals that aided in realizing the vision. Her approach really solidified the necessity in having clear leadership vision; without it, your team will become (at best) a group of compliant time-clock punchers. Worse case, you will have a group of actively disengaged employees that are bringing down your department and ultimately the organization.

So as managers (and leaders) you can see the importance of not only having, but communicating your leadership vision. To reiterate, a strong vision helps align individual goals with organizational/departmental goals. This alignment helps establish employee buy-in and drives accountability. Leadership vision helps to ensure your employees are motivated and engaged in what they do as they can “see” how their work contributes to the achievement of the vision. Lastly, it is important to remember, as managers and leaders, that this all needs to be supported and sustained through regular coaching with your employees. The sharing of a vision cannot be a moment in time or a singular event. It is sustained and supported through effective coaching by the leaders whose vision is being communicated. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of The Tango! Desktop Project/Wikimedia Commons

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