whose vision is it anyway?

I want to use this week to try to process some leadership dilemmas I have faced or am currently facing. (It’s not very liturgical for the week leading up to Easter, I know — I might try to correct that on the weekend.)

Gary Willis defines leadership as ‘mobilizing others toward a goal shared by the leader and the followers’ (Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders).

According to most, a big part of this has to do with setting vision. As far as I can tell, there are two parts to this:

  1. Articulating the goal towards which people (and resources) will be mobilised.
  2. And seeking to ensure that the goal is in fact shared — reflecting the dreams and aspirations of both leader and followers.

The challenge I’m facing is how to marry 1 and 2.

You see, when I go to do 1, I find myself reaching instinctively for inclusive language — usually in the first person plural: ‘Our vision is…’, etc.

But because I’m aware that job 2 needs doing (and may well be incomplete), I don’t want to claim too much. So I try to soften it — adding verbal hesitations like ‘I guess’, ‘I suppose’, ‘kind of’.

I think I may have picked up this habit here — on the blog, where softening and hesitating is the name of the game.

Wherever I picked it up, the outcome is not good.

So I’m going to try a new strategy:

I’m going to start articulating vision using ‘I’ statements. I’m going to own it personally, ditch any hesitation, and let people make up their own minds about whether or not they share the vision and want to jump on board.

Sound counter-intuitive? Sure. But I reckon that’s what you’re doing when you articulate vision anyway — testing the waters, seeing whether anyone bites.

What’s more, it’s probably healthier to give people space to ask themselves if they share the vision, rather wrapping talk about ‘our vision’ in so much fluff that no-one knows what they’re signing up for.

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4 comments

    1. Yep. Totally. I guess the question then becomes: How do you best persuade someone? And is it just about getting them to think the same as you (e.g., by ticking the same mental boxes)?

      I’m thinking in ‘family systems’ terms here when I say it’s about owning it as ‘my vision’ — which allows people to agree (or disagree) if they want, without promoting a fused ‘our’…

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