Great leaders who have impacted individuals, cities and nations had vision. There are very few natural visionary leaders in the corporate world. I have been providential to have worked with some visionary leaders in my little life on earth. The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned. It is in all probability the most powerful tool in a leader’s toolbox. Without vision, in my own estimation, there is no leadership. The difference between leadership in the 1st world countries and 3rd world countries is vision that is real and clear. Most African leaders waste resources because they do not have true vision. Do not forget this: leadership becomes self-serving when there is no vision. A lack of vision is the major bane in the leadership of virtually every African nation.
So what is a vision? How does it work, and how is it different from a vision statement? I like to swiftly pass on to you that one can have a vision statement without having a vision. In Nigeria, there are too many corporate organizations that do have vision statements without being visionary. Remember, you can paste a vision statement on a wall in your study and still be vision-less.
Let’s begin by defining a vision statement and a vision. A vision statement is a statement describing where and what an organization wants to be in the future. It usually remains unchanged for many years. There is nothing wrong with vision statements. They have their place in the organizational structure. However, vision statements do not necessarily translate into action. Without action, an organization has a nicely framed statement on the wall but no forward motion. Over the years, I have seen too far many organizations with nicely framed statements on varied walls without any forward motion. It is a disaster for an organization, a ministry, a government agency, an institution and a nation to have vision statements without a vision.
In dissimilarity, vision can be defined as a picture in the leader’s imagination that motivates people to action when communicated compellingly, passionately and clearly. In other words, it is not enough to have a vision. Beyond having a vision, a leader should be able to communicate it compellingly, passionately and clearly to those who are under his leadership. If this does not happen, no one will run with the vision. And without people who believe in the vision and are passionately running with it, the vision shall perish.
To be a visionary, a leader needs to have nothing more than a clear vision of the future. The difficult task is communicating that vision with clarity and passion in order to motivate and inspire people to take action. A visionary leader who clearly and passionately communicates his or her vision can motivate human resources to act with fervor and purpose, thereby ensuring that everyone is working toward a common goal. The end result is that everyone contributes to the organization’s forward momentum.
I have asked this question time and again: “What is our vision as a nation?” Why are we existing as a people? What are we becoming in the days to come? What does the future of Nigeria look like? Do we have visionary leaders, who are passionately, compellingly and clearly communicating the vision with the citizenry, so we can run with it? We are a people without a vision. This is why we have been wasting our vast resources over the years. Nigeria needs a vision! Without a clear and striking vision, there is no future for us as a people. And without a vision that we all believe in, corruption will continue to be on the increase in this nation. Nothing instills discipline as a clear and striking vision. Most of our leaders are lawless today because they are vision-less.
Additionally, “in order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision,” said Warren Bennis, professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. This is also true of a nation as Nigeria. To take Nigeria to the highest level possible, our political leaders shall need to start engaging the citizenry with a compelling and tangible vision.
What follows is a practice exercise that you can use to develop and hone your visionary communication skills either as a leader or would be leader:
One, think of just one challenge within your department, team, group, organization, nation… Are you still with me? Can you think of any challenge facing your department, group, team, organization, nation…?
Two, imagine the life-size picture. Visualize the inconceivable future success that you will realize from the new and improved situation, as well as the benefits to the organization, to the employees, the nation and to the citizenry. This is your chance to be a true visionary. No dream is too big or too fantastic.
Three, determine how you will communicate your vision. What words and phrases will you use? In what environment will you choose to communicate your vision – in a staff meeting, one on one, with supervisors and managers? How will you communicate the benefits to the staff and to the organization? Write down your ideas on paper. This is so crucial.
Four, practice communicating what you have written… Make sure it sounds sincere. Practice out loud to yourself and to others. If you do not believe it, no one else will believe it either. If you use this exercise frequently, you will find that expressing your vision in a compelling and clear manner will soon feel very natural. You will need to master what I am sharing with you today either as a leader or would be leader.
Lastly, when you are ready to communicate your vision to your people, give them only the vision of success. Great leaders use vision as a tool to inspire and motivate, not to dictate. Do not give your employees the steps for achieving the vision, but let them determine the methods and tactics for achieving the goal. Great leaders know how to give the gift of vision and then step away.
See you where great leaders are found.