When some people see or hear a statement that resembles the title of this column, they often say something to the effect of “Ya, ya , ya, I know, to be good a leader you must have a vision and then communicate with others. Bla bla bla.”
The reason for this, dare I say, uninspired attitude toward defining leadership as a combination of vision and articulation is twofold. First, is because it seems to be stating the obvious. Second, is because vision and articulation is only part of the leadership story. Let’s discuss these reasons one at a time.
Regarding leadership, vision provides the direction of where you want people to go. Articulation is the process of communicating your vision to others. If done correctly, this communication is much more than just stating what you are thinking and how you would like things to be. The problem is that doing it correctly is very much harder than it looks.
At its best, this communication is a combination of the following:
- Clearly defining the current state: This tells those you are trying to lead, what you are leading them from.
- Clearly defining the end state: This tells those you are trying to lead, where you want them to go. In essence, this is your vision of the future.
- Providing compelling rationale: This describes the “why” behind the “what”. This provides the reasons that your vision is worthwhile to pursue.
- Facilitate transference: This is the process, through your words, passion, body language, tone, and stature, by which you make your vision the vision of those you are trying to lead.
It’s also fair to say that leadership is much more than simply having a defined direction that you think people should go and telling them about it. In addition to communication, as described above, at its best also includes the following:
- A willingness to lead by example: As you may expect, saying or illustrating the concept of “Don’t do what I do, do what I tell you” provides a very weak role model and is far less inspiring than someone who leads by example and is the embodiment of the vision they are trying to articulate and persuade others to follow.
- Providing a vision bigger than yourself: Trying to inspire others by saying it’s good for you, their leader, is not particularly inspiring. Imagine your boss came to you and told you to work hard so that he/she could get a big bonus. By bigger than yourself, it could be something that’s good for the team as a whole, for your company, for a specific worthy cause, or for some other concept that those you wish to lead are willing to follow.
- The personal strength to be a leader: Being a leader is hard. It takes courage, determination, personal risk, and internal inspiration. Truth be told, it’s a lot easier to be a follower than a leader because once you make the decision to follow, all the rest of the decisions are made for you.
- The perseverance to continue on: This is best described by two old expressions and the line from one of my favorite Broadway Plays, Avita:
- Old Expression 1: “It takes years to become an overnight success.”
- Old Expression 2: “American Indian rain dances were always 100% successful because they kept dancing until it rained.”
- Play Line (From Ava Peron to her husband Juan Peron): “It’s hard to keep momentum when it’s you that you are following.”
You may ask, why all this talk of leadership is in a management column? In my opinion, great management is a combination of reactive and proactive. The reactive component deals effectively with problems which arise, properly implement senior management directives, and properly administer required company processes such as salary planning. Proactive management is the embodiment of leadership, as previously discussed.
As you move forward with your career as a professional manager, make the conscious decision as to what type of manager you want to be. Both reactive and proactive managers can be extremely effective and successful. That said, the combination of both is often unbeatable. Remember, that at the end of the day, what really makes a leader “a leader” is people who believe your message and are willing to follow your direction.