This series of articles began in mid-November. At times I’ve felt as if a stream of thinking is like taking hold of the tail of a lion. The “ride” is bigger and wilder than I ever thought when I hopped on. Here’s a brief review.
First, vision is about seeing something in the future that is not yet reality. It occurs in the gap between what is and what we want to be. It is in this gap where motivation lives. It is in this gap where the tussle between status quo and what can be occurs. And it is in this gap that either meandering or taking deliberate steps toward accomplishment occurs.
Second, vision is planted in midair if it isn’t built on the mission. It is all about the mission! Vision is making the mission more concrete.
Third, personal vision is something that grows over time. Vision is often discovered or planted in the heart of a child. Very few people “see” a complete vision of the future they want for themselves or their company from the beginning. Like a great tea or chili, vision must sit for a while to crystallize.
Fourth, successful leaders cannot stand alone. Their personal vision must become “shared vision”. No leader can stand alone. Corporately speaking, “our vision” is usually a euphemism for “my vision”. This is not “shared vision”. Shared vision involves encouraging both the corporate leaders around you and the employees you lead to personally go deeper to develop their own personal vision and to help the organization to develop a genuinely “shared vision”. When this occurs, the motivational engine becomes dynamic. If a leader’s personal vision does not become “shared vision” the vision lasts only as long as the leader is present. Give each one of us a few minutes and we could all share a story about an organization that struggled in the transition from one leader to another. And this struggle would be directly tied to defining the organizational mission and vision. In order for vision to be sustainable, it must be a shared vision.
A special core of influencers has shaped my thinking.* The principle I’m sharing here is articulated by Peter Senge. Personal vision does not belong to you! It is given to you as a gift and a responsibility. You don’t own it. In a sense, it belongs to the world. Think of Edison, Ford, Firestone, Bell, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs. Each of them had a vision that was tied to their mission. But their vision “belonged” to the world. It impacted history, our history and the history of the world. Yes, this is a huge shift of thinking about your relationship with your vision. Underneath our lives we are called to a mission. Our lives have a “purpose story”. There is a bigger picture in which our lives are meant to impact others for the greater good.
The implications of this reality are significant. Treat the vision you have with care. Be attentive and disciplined in striving to achieve it. Ignore the voices in your head or around you that diminish your vision. Recognize the awesomeness of the vision entrusted to you. In striving to fulfill your vision do not be pushy. Strive with humility, patience and gentleness but with determination. Remember, you cannot stand alone.
Senge shares a poem by Kahlil Gibran that I’m passing along to you. Gibran is talking about our relationship to our children. Senge likens this relationship to our relationship with our personal vision.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s to belonging for itself.
They come through you, not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot
visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like
them, but strive not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the
bows from which your children as living arrows are sent
forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the
infinite, and bends you with his might that the arrows may
go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as
he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves the bow that is
stable. (as quoted by Senge in The Fifth Discipline,
“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How happy is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Psalm 127:3-5
*Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in Extreme Ownership; Patrick Lencioni (several books but especially, The Advantage); and Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization