[April 23, 2016] Most leaders don’t have the ability to clearly define where they’re going. My grandmother tried to teach me as a child that the best way to be happy was to know what I wanted and to tell my family about it. Not unlike a child (their mission is to be happy), it is common for leaders to have no vision. In other words, they either don’t know where they’re going or cannot express it clearly to others.
“We will send a man to the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.” John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President
Leaders know what their mission is about but having and giving direction – vision – to those that follow them is often lacking. A good example of a clearly stated vision, one that is hard to misunderstand, was when Kennedy declared on May 25, 1963 that America would send a man to the moon. It is not surprising that that the mission was accomplished; despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Kennedy’s vision was clear, straightforward, and easily communicated. Everyone understood and followed it. On July 20, 1969 the first manned mission to land on the moon was accomplished. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin were the first two men out of a total of 12 to have ever set foot on the moon’s surface.
In military terminology we call it the commander’s intent. For a military it is incumbent upon the senior leaders to establish an intent declaration of what they want done … equivalent to a vision but stated differently. A commander’s intent is a clear, concise statement of what the military force must do to achieve a desired end state. The point is that it defines success with a considerable degree of clarity.
When soldiers know what their commander wants to happen, they can act individually or as team members to achieve the goal. What makes this technique workable is that those soldiers can act in the absence of further orders or guidance. Military forces and commercial enterprises that have no clearly stated vision of where they’re going will fail. They may know their purpose (mission) but we see in the high failure rates of start-up businesses that they often lacked a vision.
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch, Business Executive
Having a clear and well-articulated vision is a must-have for any organization to succeed. It is the responsibility of its senior leadership to create the vision, communicate it, and as Jack Welch tells us, everyone must own it while leaders drive it to the end state.
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