Today’s post is written by a LEAD 365 alumnus, Ken Horner, VP of Quality for Gentex Corporation. Ken was part of a LEAD 365 cohort that wrapped up in February 2016. This is Ken’s second time as a guest blogger. His first post, Making Great Choices, was published in July 2016.

Last week Rodger blogged about what he considers the most important skill of a leader—the willingness to lean into healthy conflict. If you recall, in LEAD 365 we actually learned about the five characteristics of a great leader. Leaning into healthy conflict is one of them, and I’d like you to pause for a moment and try to remember what the other four are. 

How’d you do? For the one or two of you who couldn’t quite remember those four, here they are: 

  • the ability to build great teams
  • the ability to give and receive feedback
  • the ability to listen well
  • the ability to provide clarity around purpose, vision, and values. 

This week I’d like to share about the importance of providing clarity around vision.

Vision, in the generic sense, is something most of us take for granted—we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our ability to see. We use our vision to go places and do things safely and effectively. Our vision enables us to see beautiful things, see things we wished we hadn’t seen, and all things in between.

But stop for a minute and really think of what your life would be like if you did not have eyesight. How drastically different would your world be?

As a leader, the ability to provide clarity to your team is like providing eyesight to someone who wasn’t previously able to see. A great leader helps create a compelling vision for his or her team so that everyone understands where they’re going and what the preferred future will look like upon arrival. 

Here’s another quick quiz for you: Do you remember the characteristics of a great vision that Rodger and team taught us? A great visions is simple, bold, and shared by the team. I like to think that a great vision is crystal clear, very inspiring, and bought into by the entire team. When a team settles on a vision, I believe that vision should be easy to visualize AND should trigger an emotional response that compels the team to give full effort toward it—it should “motivate the elephant.”

And how to create that vision? I think it depends on the situation. In some cases the leader must provide the vision for the team, although I believe this should be the exception. If a team is very young, or dysfunctional, or some other situation prevents it from being part of the process, the leader may have to provide the vision to get things moving. However, I believe that in most cases, creating vision should be a collaborative effort with the team, with the leader providing input and guidance where necessary to make sure everyone is thinking and moving in the same direction. The likelihood of the team buying into the vision increases dramatically if the team is a part of the process of creating it—there’s a natural ownership that makes it very difficult to ignore.

My experience with creating vision is that it takes a little time to get the team thinking clearly enough, and, surprisingly, BIG enough, but once they get there it becomes a rallying cry for the team. Creating vision together gives the team a renewed sense of purpose that can be extremely motivating and provide a feeling of satisfaction that we’re working together toward better days,  toward something bigger and better that without vision we wouldn’t be able to see—no matter how good our eyesight may be.

And, oh yeah, it’s probably easier to lean into healthy conflict when someone is doing something, even unknowingly, that doesn’t align with the compelling vision that the whole team passionately believes in.

Ken Horner

Image by Ian Sane. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.