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5 Gears of Leadership: Cog 3-Vision


Vision is the capactity to see what's coming down the road. In some ways, it is a snapshot of the future. Leadership is the ability to achieve that vision. Managers can have it, share it, and arrange the details about achieving it. But, leaders sell it and create such personal buy-in for it, that the vision becomes the driving force toward the mission. It's essential in leaders because it defines the goal any group is pursuing.

As a Christ followers and pastor for 35 years, there's been some learning about vision. For generatons church people have quoted Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision the people perish" in referencing the need for vision in fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ. It's noteworthy and admirable to discover biblical under-pinning for any endeavor. So, applying this vision verse to our human pursuits is a strong means of intersecting faith and life. But, there is the reality that Solomon's thought in Proverbs 29:18 isn't really about vision. Many of the more recent translations pick this up. The ESV reads, "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint". There is a distinction between vision and revelation. Of course, vision can be revelation if God shows direction to a leader. But, vision is not always revelation. And, in the Proverb, the indication is that without divine revelation, people have no limits around their lives. They can do their own thing, as in Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes".

But, the Bible does address vision. Jesus spoke about people who had ears but did not hear, and eyes but did not see. He wasn't speaking not about physical handicaps, but about spiritual ones. His teaching was especially aimed at the religious people of the day who had everything in front of them but could not discern the current reality of God's redemptive plan. As a result, there was teaching about blind guides leading people into a pit, people who saw others like trees in the distance, and the general characteristics of spiritual dysfunction related to visualizing God's present future, to use a term used by Reggie McNeal in his best-selling book a few years ago.

Leaders must have the ability to see the future. No, there are usually no crystal balls or tarot cards or palm reading involved in this process. This vision is the instinctive ability to fast-forward thinking to visualize the future of a company, enterprise, project, undertaking, or even life. This futurist is keen about the present, aware of trends in a particular field of study or work, and sensitive to cultural influence on that work. And, there is a huge asterisk (*) in this vision thing. The head of the organization may not actually be the visionary. But, the leader insures that the visionary is on board and that the vision of the organization consumes and motivates the team. For this reason, some companies employ a chief visionary officer to insure they are moving toward the vision and that the vision is continually refreshed.

Vision is significant to the leader for a number of reasons:

(1) Vision is often the fuel for personal passion. Leaders can be ignited when the vision resonates with their deepest heartbeat. When passion and vision meet, traction happens, and the passion is spent in areas of high return and result.

(2) Vision provides a ground-zero mentality around the leaders values. A clear vision requires values assessment at very step or the resources of the organization will not be engaged fully. When there's a disconnect between vision and values, serious motivational issues occur and the final mission becomes more difficult. A fresh vision requires values examination.

(3) Vision sells. Now, I realize that sounds like the go-for-broke business world that lives by a bottom line, usually achieved by selling good or services. But, it really is more than that, and something that is true in the profit or non-profit sector. It's an axiom of plugged in leaders: money follows vision. Whether it is widgets or contributions to a cancer fund-raiser the vision of the leader transmits purpose, passion, and the goals of the organization that result in success.

(4) Vision is contagious. There are leaders whose personalities are electric currents and those who are more sedate, even duds. When they commnicate, no matter their personality traits, people are drawn into the project by an inspiring vision.

(5) Vision sustains the big picture and the long run. Trends helps us anticipate the future and prepare for it. They are the timeline of reality. Fads, on the other hand, are short-term infatuations that can bounce the organization from diverse points that distract from the objective. Vision has a sustaining quality that gives the group a continuous goal in spite of the ups and downs of a fickle world.

(6) Vision communicates hope. In history great leaders have inspired and encouraged entire nations with their vision for the future. Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to mind as they collaborated and envisoned a world beyond the Nazi menace. Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher raised nations to overcome the world-wide threat of Communism because of a vision they shared and used to rally their populations. They are compelling examples of how vision inspires and lifts people.

Jesus was the ultimate leader. He fast-forwarded his listeners to the finish line, talked to them about the kindgom, prayed for God's will on earth as it is in heaven. The Apostle Paul talked about the crown of righteousness, finishing the course, running the race, and what God has in store for those who love him. They were leaders who were firmly aimed at something, a vision of what God had reserved for his people. They changed the world with that vision.

No, I'm not Jesus or Paul, and neither are you. But, we can and should be visionaries, or at the least, insure that someone with vision is a part of our leadership team. Peter Marshall said, "Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything".

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