Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leadership Lessons Learned – Vision

Take a moment and think about a company or organization that you know to be successful. Now, think about what makes this company successful. The list could be long and include a worthwhile mission, passionate people, efficient processes and policies, and a much needed product or service. Usually, at the top of the list is a successful leader that has a guiding principle, a passion, a vision that helps guide the leader in all matters and decisions.  

Go to the website of the company or organization that you thought of, and you will most likely be able to find their guiding principle, their Mission and their Vision. While these collections of words may seem trivial, used properly these same words can make the difference in success and failure.

I work for a company that has a Vision and Mission that I truly believe in and can live every day on the job. More importantly, I see the leaders of my company living these words every day in their actions and in their decisions. In the past, I worked for a very large corporation that lost its mission. The morale was incredibly low while layoffs happened every 6 months. The company eventually went out of business and the operation was taken over by a different company. What was the difference?  I believe the answer lies in the fact that the latter example lacked leaders that lived the company’s Vision.

Leading a District of very talented Toastmasters gave me the opportunity to share my guiding principle, my Vision for the District. I planned this for two years and shared this vision in my inaugural address. My theme was “An Attitude of Service” and my Vision was that every member enters every leadership opportunity with an attitude of being there, not for themselves, but for those they serve. My theme and vision were well received and I fostered many positive comments and huge support. Was I done?  No!  While I had the support and passion of the members at the starting gate, those same members needed to see me live this Vision every day and in every way.

I immediately was tested as other leaders came to me with problems. In every case, I asked that leader to step back and ask, “How can I be of service in this situation?” I would often receive feedback that the leader was inspired by this opportunity to look at the situation differently and find alternate solutions. On many occasions, I was there with my Vision as a solution to a challenge.

I’ve studied and had a passion for Missions and Visions for years, but this was my first opportunity to lead a large organization with my thoughts and beliefs. I really learned at a different level that it is imperative that those we lead see us live our Vision. We must be passionate about it, we must motivate with it, we must coach with it, we must meet challenges with it, and we most of all, we must empower others to do the same.

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