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Vision: the framework for great leadership

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Running one of our Ignite courses last week in leadership and coaching skills, I was struck by just how much power leaders have, regardless of their position in the hierarchy.  And it’s all down to one thing: vision.

The reason vision is so important is because it’s such a powerful tool.These carvings frame the doorway

It’s the difference between rich and poor.  Success and failure.  Or worse, stagnation.  It’s so easy to keep doing the same old things when you don’t know where you’re going.  It’s a completely different, richer and more dynamic, picture when you have a vision.

Because when you know where you’re going, you can focus your efforts on getting there.  Regardless of your situation today.

Vision is not a pipedream

I’m speaking from experience here, by the way.  I too was that single parent in my mid-twenties.  Restricted by financial and social challenges.  So I had a vision for the life I wanted to live.

I decided to invest in my education and training, and earn my way into that life.

It may sound grandiose or fanciful, but I am living the dream I had 20 years ago.  I know how tough it is for some people today.  For young people particularly.  But they, and you, can have a successful vision.

So what do we, at the Forton Group, mean by vision?

It’s a bit bigger than a goal.  It’s more than an objective.  A vision is having the overall sense of the direction you’re going, and what it’s going to look and feel like when you’re there.  It’s immersion in your bigger purpose.

And that doesn’t mean ignoring the operational issues we’ve got to deliver on today.  Having a vision is knowing the purpose behind the bigger picture, and keeping the day to day challenges on track.

Visions don’t have to be glamorous, global or glittering.  They can sizzle through their simplicity too.  They can be clear and to the point.

But they need to be compelling too.

Compelling because having a vision is also knowing that it’s going to take a bit of extra effort.  Investment.  Not only money, maybe time, talent or training.

And that’s why it takes leadership

It’s easy, and quite cosy, to focus on one thing.  To be a technical expert or leader.  You succeed; you get satisfaction from that success.  Then you improve your systems and processes to succeed better and more often in future.

That’s great.

And vision takes an understanding of where you’re really taking the team, the department, the organisation.  And taking people with you too.

What happens if you’ve got a vision, but your boss hasn’t?

One of the debating points at last week’s workshop was on ‘upward management’.  How do we inspire our leaders to have a vision?

Isn’t it their job to inspire and motivate us?

This is where the leadership frame fits in

My colleague Cyndi has been coaching and training leaders foThese carvings frame the doorwayr decades.  The metaphor she uses is to think of a picture frame.  Or a door frame.

All of our organisations are framed in some ways.  There’s budgets and legalities.  Operational issues and deadlines.  Everything we do is framed by something.  It could be this week’s objectives.  Or the year-end figures.  And that frame is slightly different at each point in the organisation.

Our home life provides a frame too.  And frames help us focus.

So the good news is, we can acknowledge what frames our role.  And we can still have a vision:

  • For ourselves, as leaders
  • For our team
  • For what success looks like
  • For what work and home balance feels like

And actually, it makes perfect sense to our bosses too.  Helping your boss to see your vision means that they can better support you.

They see how what you’re aiming for fits into their vision.  Or not.

In which case, maybe you’re having a different conversation…

That’s where leadership conversations can start.  Finding out who shares your vision.  OR whether there’s a bigger picture we’re not aware of.

Whether it’s a vision personal to you. Or one you need to co-create with your boss, or your team.

Leadership vision and power

Having a vision gives us feelings of power and control.  This is why today’s leadership doesn’t rely on position, hierarchy or authority.  It can be self-created.

However, it no longer relies on telling others what to do.  It requires emotional intelligence and influence.

I find it fascinating that this is what makes visionary leadership so scary to some people.  They were hoping to get promoted and be able to tell others what to do.  To exercise power and control over others.

Because, maybe, that’s what was done to them.

In conversations with the team.  With stakeholders.  With your boss.  It’s about influence, and sometimes, compromise on the journey towards the vision.  And having the vision is your benchmark against how you will be successful

So next time you’re talking about growing the team’s vision and you need a hand.  Pick up the phone and let’s have a conversation.  It’s not about selling you stuff you don’t need.  It’s about supporting you to be a more successful leader and your team – and your boss – to get your vision. We have a programme of open courses or we can run in-house events for 6 or more people adapted to your specific needs.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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