Leadership Lesson 04: Facing the Future

Leadership Lesson 04: Facing the Future
Being forward looking is THE quality that most separates leaders from followers.

If there is one thing that is most often talked about, it is visionary leadership. Sometimes I think it is the MAIN thing that is said to define leaders. What I so respect about Kouzes and Posner, is they know great leadership requires many components. And in that larger vision, they give the rightful place of vision and seeing a better future.

In 1993 when I attended my very first leadership conference, one of the speakers defined vision in this way. Leaders see a better future. Leaders see a future they greatly prefer over the current conditions. That is vision. It is the core task of a leader to get a vision. Then it is the task of leaders to incubate and communicate that vision, mobilizing others for shared responsibility in getting to that better place.

Now, I think there are some seriously deficient ways that vision is discussed and taught.Those ways tend to produce a visionary style of leadership that is top down, hierarchical, non-collaborative, and where people need constant "pumping up" to keep ownership of the vision. I also believe there are valuable approaches where leaders can be catalysts and collectors of visions that God is giving to the team and even to the community. But none of that is the focus of this blog.

The focus of this leadership lesson is that leaders MUST have a vision of a better future. They must be able to speak about that better future in inspiring ways. If they cannot do this, they can't and won't be fruitful in their leadership.

This vision is forward looking. It is optimistic. It is full of hope and faith. It is attractive and inspiring. That is what people are looking for.

Now, here is a very intriguing point made by Kouzes and Posner. They say that people do not ask their teammates about their vision. The question of where are we going is not addressed to the team. It is addressed to the leader. I had to think about that. And for me personally, I realize that I break the mold. Now, I break the mold for several reasons. 

One - I am collaborative and want input from others about where do "we want to go?" 

Two - I am developmental and one of my core roles is that of mentoring others. So I am always asking them about their vision?

Three - when my colleagues and teammates have responsibilities for areas outside my own - I do indeed want to know where they are headed and what they see.

Personally, I think this is pretty healthy.

Where are you on these issues? Do you have a vision of a preferred future?
Are you collaborating with others about what they see?
How are you communicating your vision to others?


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International