Vision is a crystal clear mental photograph of a better future that beckons. It is the result of unrelenting hard work and sacrifice. It is the culmination of missions accomplished and goals achieved.
In: Column, Leadership, Vision

November 22, 2011

As a fifth-grader, I read a book that impacted my life. I read many books, including Bible stories, that influenced and shaped me. This one book, however, made me dream. It was the story of a teen’s struggles to make the basketball team and culminated in a detailed description of his triumphant thrill when he, at long last, put on the uniform with his name on the back. From that day forward, I could see myself wearing a real basketball uniform. I imagined how I would look and exactly how excited I would feel. It was real.

I had always loved basketball because my Dad played, and I wanted to be like him. That, plus this clear vision of my future, drove me to spend hundreds of hours by myself in the driveway practicing, making my dream come true. (Uniforms in my day made saving cloth a priority with sexy, shorty-shorts. No knee-length bloomers that open like a parachute for us. We covered what needed to be covered—no more, no less. Except for the knee-high socks, that is.)

“Hope is the dream of a waking man.” –Aristotle

If we interviewed every participant in the Occupy Wall Street crowd, we would find a cross-section of people, some—many perhaps—with serious problems and character flaws, many who are looking for any excuse to protest and escape their daily, hum-drum life, and many who are simply lazy and want something for nothing.

But, their lack of a coherent purpose aside, I wonder if a common theme with the genuinely frustrated may be a lack of hope. Has the luster dimmed on the American Dream, or is it still the nation where a person has the best chance of improving his or her lot by the sweat of the brow?

A leader is a dealer in hope.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

We should have learned from the last couple of years that promises of hope and change without extremely hard work are empty and void. Like gathering clouds on the hot Texas horizon that promise rain but move on without yielding a drop on the parched soil, empty slogans and platitudes may give a brief jolt but ultimately leave people feeling frustrated, discouraged, and hopeless.

Yet creating and holding forth a galvanizing vision remains a critical leadership responsibility. Vision is a crystal clear mental photograph of a better future that beckons. It is the result of unrelenting hard work and sacrifice. It is the culmination of missions accomplished and goals achieved. Grand, glorious visions—unseen by most—discovered the new world, settled it, gave birth to a new form of free government, moved west through the wilderness, and created a land of opportunity the world had never seen. Ever.

If you lead, are you skilled at visioning? Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

True or False?

I am confident you could interview any of my managers, and they would articulate our vision with passion.

Our people have a clear understanding of where we are going and the part they play in helping us get there.

Most of our people see the big picture about what we do as an organization; how we are making the world a better place.

We, as a group, are passionate about what we do.

Our culture is so strong I don’t have to do all the evangelizing. Everyone helps the ‘newbies’ understand what we are about.

I / we have room to improve.

More than likely, we can all improve. I remain convinced the United States of America, with all her flaws, still is the greatest land of opportunity. If we can dream it, we can do it—with hard work and sacrifice. This is something we can all express appreciation for to our Creator God this Thanksgiving season. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Mary and me!

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