Julie Straw and team in their book The Work of Leaders discussed three steps of leadership – Crafting a Vision, Building Alignment and Championing Execution. In this article, we discuss the importance of not just crafting a shared vision but also the role of a leader in crafting a shared vision.
To begin with, people like their leaders to have two distinct characteristics – being forward-looking and futuristic and being credible or trustworthy. To get extraordinary things, people must work in the present and focus on the future into the whole realm of possibilities. All things are created twice – once in the mind and then in reality. A leader’s job is to continuously envision new products and services and new business ecosystems that can take the organization towards success.
Leaders must focus on creating long term value for the organization and its customers while focussing on the present for delivering results. By focussing on the future, leaders can provide a sense of meaning and purpose to the organization that binds its people together and inspire them to work hard. By continuously seeking clarity of vision and then enlisting others, leaders create a sense of shared vision.
Motivation theories provide a business case for creating a shared vision. As we know, motivation is essentially of two types – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation stems from the external environment, for getting rewarded or when we must achieve certain goals set by others. External motivation creates compliance and in some cases defiance. Externally controlled people could stop making efforts once rewards disappear.
Extrinsic motivation is difficult to sustain. However, the second type of motivation – intrinsic motivation is about what one wants to achieve internally. Not set or controlled by others, internal motivation is about our own interests, passion and desires. It gives us tenacity to see through rough times and work with tangible rewards. By enlisting people in the process of shared vision, leaders play on intrinsic motivation of people. By offering a shared vision that everyone feels intrinsically inspired by, leaders create a rich environment where employee engagement and performance are enhanced. The role of a leader in creating a shared vision is in enticing the intrinsic motivating of the people and in building consensus.
Role of a Leader in Crafting a Shared Vision
One of the first steps in crafting a vision is to do some self-reflection and articulate as much as possible one’s likes, passions, interests and inspirations. Because the process of envisioning is more art than science, more emotional than a sequence of activities, it is important to start by articulating what drives and inspires the leader. The role of a leader is in not just self-reflecting but also encouraging the leadership team in an exercise of self-reflection.
Second, by engaging with the larger team, where everyone shares in their values, inspirations, perspectives, questions, hopes and dreams, you could arrive at certain themes or directions that define the overall shared vision. Role of a leader is in engaging the leadership team in a structured process of deriving these idea directions.
Past provides a great way to start looking into the future. It is filled with experiences, data, perspectives, reality and most importantly learning. It gives a picture of what is possible and how long does it take for you as a company to do something new. It provides a good view of what can go wrong as well. While the past does not always portray the future possibilities of an organization, it provides a good way to extrapolate the success and assess what an organization may achieve. The role of a leader is in engaging the leadership team in a systematic process of sharing the highs and lows about the past and arriving at the key learnings form the past.
By assessing the current business ecosystem, leaders can enable the creation of a shared vision. Recent research and surveys involve understanding how the organization creates value for its customers, what the current capability and shortcomings are and how people feel working in the organization. The juice of assessing, reflecting and articulating the current state of the organization is in knowing what must change and what must be preserved in the future.
Imagining the future
The final step of creating a shared vision, which the leader must drive is in imagining a bold future. A future that considers the unfolding market situation, trends and patterns in the buying behavior of the customers, technological advancements and disruptive trends. The role of a leader is in providing a psychologically safe environment for the team to share their version of the vision without the fear of loosing credibility.