Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leadership and That Vision Thing - Does It Matter?

The answer is yes it does. There are many definitions of leadership and my favorite is by Burt Nanus. Burt Nanus is a a well known leadership development expert and author of books on this subject. He has a specialty in nonprofit leadership and my favorite book is his "Leaders Who Make a Difference - Essential Strategires for Meeting the Nonprofit Challenge." I highly recommend it. The Nanus definition:

The purpose of nonprofit leadership is to move the organization in the right direction.

It is as simple as that. Of course there are many facets to making this happen but today I am going to focus on vision. What makes a leader effective, is turning his/her vision into a shared vision. It is only at that point that a vision can become reality.. A shared vision can provide the focus and energy needed to make things happen. It is important for leaders to develop and communicate their ideas so that others can also visualize and embrace them. In preparing to teach a workshop on Visionary Leadership, I did a great deal of research. Visionary leaders have strong cognitive abilities. This requires a lot of hard thinking. Just like athletes who make incredible feats look easy, this is true with visionary leaders. Bill Gates takes two weeks a year in a remote cabin alone reading and thinking about ideas for the future. There is a staff at Microsoft who processes material suggested for him to read during this time. Bill gets it that the vision thing isn't just an innate quality that some people have and some people don't. It takes hard work.

During my workshop we went through a number of exercises which caused each individual to think more and more thoroughly in developing their own vision for their organization. Each participant worked on developing communication about their vision in a more inspirational way. By taking the time to flesh out their ideas themselves, they were better able to communicate their vision in such a way that others would be interested in making the vision happen - making it a shared vision.

I didn't say "buy-in." You need more than for people to buy-in to your idea. You want it to become part of their idea for the organization. So the true leader lets go of the vision as his/her idea and lets it become the shared vision of the organization. Of course it may evovle as that happens but in the end a vision that becomes a reality has to become a shared vision first.

Marion Conway Consulting

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