Being the Leader is Cool – Vision

In Being the Leader is Cool – Modeling we covered understanding leadership responsibility through being what you expect others to be. Next up:

  • Vision – it is up to the leader to provide a vision


“I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”

(Originally sung by Johnny Nash and Brenda Lee)

Dark days happen in business. Getting through those days require vision.

A clear and shared vision inspires and rallies the workforce. A clear vision is the north­ seeking arrow of the organization. A shared vision generates motivation and commitment. It is not simply top-down driven but includes members from various levels of the organization in its development. By the very nature of the development, the vision has rapid buy-in from employees who put the vision into action.

A good friend, a CEO of a successful IT firm, and I had an interesting conversation at a recent lunch meeting. He voiced an observation that there is a growing number of CEOs he is working with that lack vision. He went on to point out that these new CEOs seem happy only to keep their respective organizations afloat. His concern immediately brought to mind Yahoo’s former CEO, Carol Bartz. One of the noted reasons for her departure from Yahoo was her lack of providing a clear vision for the future of the organization.

An effective vision is Concise, Compelling and Shared. You write it on paper but impress it on the heart. It is not a destination; it is a direction. It is the true north for an organization.

A few examples of good Vision Statements:

  • “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” Nike
    If you have a body, you are an athlete.
  • “Our vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces.” Toys- R- Us
  • One that strikes me as a superb vision statement but difficult to achieve: “To Protect and Serve” LAPD

Concise means short. Short is powerful. There are vision statements that are incredibly long such as the John F. Kennedy Inaugural Speech. It is 1,364 words long, and it took 13 minutes and 42 seconds to deliver, with applause. As a vision statement, it would be one of the longest. As an inaugural speech, it is one of the shortest. It establishes a powerfully clear direction. It speaks to the heart of all Americans and challenges all to become more than they think they can be. If you have not heard the speech, I recommend taking the 13 minutes and 42 seconds to listen. You won’t forget it. An equally powerful and long vision statement is Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech which is ranked the top speech of the 20th Century.

I recommend keeping it short.

Vision statements must be shared. If the vision does not resonate with those you lead there will be little allegiance to the organization.

An example of an organization with a concise, compelling, yet not shared vision is United Airlines. The merger of Continental Airlines and United Airlines took place in 2010 and created the world’s biggest airline. Its vision statement: “To be recognized worldwide as the airline of choice.” The statement is concise and compelling yet not a view shared by the employees.

The lack of enthusiasm the employees have for the new United Airline is detailed in recent Wall Street Journal articles and opinion pieces. Moreover, the lingering anger of customers over poor customer service is chronicled. Visions must be shared.

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