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Leadership is Set Back by Not Sharing the Vision

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization. 

By Scena Webb
March 6, 2019

A leader who has the responsibility to share the vision of an organization should do so with intentionality. Having a vision for moving the organization forward that isn’t shared is only a dream. There’s one burning question that comes to mind—What happens when leaders don’t share the vision? Worse yet, what happens when the leader assumes that their vision has been communicated throughout the organization?

“Not sharing the vision creates a cluttered direction for people much like looking at the sky through the snow-covered branches.”

Each person in the organization is connected to the success of the mission. A successfully communicated vision is how the mission is achieved. In other words, the vision is the roadmap to success.

I am not alone in this assessment. Go out and search the internet for articles on sharing the vision of an organization and you will find a consensus that missing out on a clear vision statement does very little toward helping people understand the goals, and more importantly, how to work toward achieving the vision. Here are some of the symptoms that appear in organizations that are connected to leaders who don’t share the vision:

  • People execute their own interpretations of what the organization wants.
  • When strategic changes are made inside organizations, people wonder why those events take place.
  • People begin to create their own reasons why events take place because there is no shared vision they can refer to in times of uncertainty.
  • People resent the people in leadership positions because they feel that they have limited information on what’s happening in the organization.
  • Most importantly, people begin to seek out others who don’t know the why behind decisions and form silos.

There are lots of articles about what a leader should do in hopes of becoming more effective. However, there are few articles on what happens when something does not take place as a result of leadership. For clarity, this article is not about judgment and does not advocate any implications of why a leader doesn’t share the vision. This article is all about what happens when the leader does not share the vision.

Ways forward

Craft your vision statement and deliver your vision to the people you influence at all levels in the organization. Your vision statement should communicate purpose and direction. The vision statement is a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action. A clear and concise vision statement is an essential tool for leaders. The vision statement connects how people’s work links to the goals of the organization. The vision statement is a great tool that gives a shared purpose where people can take their time to internalize and ask questions focusing on organizational culture. The importance of a clear vision statement connected to the organization’s mission cannot be overstated.

The essential point of reflection for leaders is this, “How does the mission of this organization become reality?”

The answer is two-fold:

  1. Creating a concise and clear vision statement
  2. Communicating the vision to every person on the organization more than once, repeatedly.

Vision statements should have a visual component in addition to words. As a leader shares the vision for the organization, the department or the section, there needs to be one voice. The same vision should go out across the organization.

Here’s one approach to communicating your vision statement:

Sharing vision statements goes beyond writing one and sending it out in an email. Sharing a vision statement requires effective leaders to capitalize on the four most common ways people learn. These ways are:

  1. Visually. People learn through pictures and images. Your vision statement should have a visual aspect.
  2. Physically. People like using their body, hands, or a sense of touch while learning. When you share your vision, try a team exercise that connects a physical event to the vision.
  3. Verbally. Writing the vision statement and hearing the statement allows people to connect the meaning behind the words.
  4. Socially. Create a team atmosphere when you repeat the vision. You must repeat the vision because people join the organization and leave the organization. Your vision is important and should become a part of your oral tradition.

Here is a cautionary tale: when your vision statement isn’t communicated, then people feel as if they don’t know the why behind decisions that require their help to become a reality. Think about this concept. Close your eyes and visualize any situation where you gave direction without sharing the why. What was the result? Think about how that same direction could have gone if you shared the why behind the mission. Think of what is possible when you share the how to get to the goal. You have a great tool that can help you increase your effectiveness of getting the mission into action. This is sharing your vision statement.

Author:Dr. Scena Webb is a military veteran having completed 21 years of naval service. She is the author of two books and owns a small business, Celebrate Incorporated, that offers coaching services for veterans and doctoral students. She is an instructor for Indiana Wesleyan University where she teaches graduate students in the Masters of Public Administration program.

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