In Vision

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

It’s been the trendy thing for some years now for leaders to talk about “buy in” from their people.  And certainly it’s not just trendy – it really does matter.  It is important that people in your organization are really behind what you’re trying to accomplish.  It’s also been trendy to talk about the importance of delegation by leaders.  Again, not just trendy – vitally important.  The best leaders always have available time, in part because they give away things that don’t require their participation.

Unfortunately, there are leaders who try to create buy in by delegating away arguably their most important job.  People need to buy in to your vision for the organization and that vision needs to engage them – but they need you to set that vision.  I’ve seen organizations that – in the name of employee buy in – get a whole bunch of employees together to talk about company vision.  They’ll ask employees for their vision of what the company should be, what should really matter, etc.  Then after the meeting they get irritated because the employees didn’t come up with the “right” vision.

The reality is that setting the vision is the job of the leaders.  There are lots of things that can function as a democracy in an organization, but vision setting isn’t one of them.  It can’t be up for a vote, and it can’t be up to a focus group.  You have to set the vision and then you have to clearly articulate it in a convincing way.

I’m not suggesting that your people are incompetent, or that there isn’t a place for their input.  Within the framework of the vision there is plenty of room for people to find their place.  And if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded with a high-performing management team, they can certainly help.  I’m simply suggesting that as the leader(s) you can’t pass off setting the vision to somebody else.

That being the case, make sure you take time to think about the vision you have for your organization on a regular basis.  Don’t think about it once a year at your management retreat, or once every couple years when you’re updating your “vision statement” (mini editorial: as a general rule I hate vision statements).  Think about it regularly.  What is it you really want this thing to be?  Why?  What has to happen for you to get there?

Setting & articulating your vision is probably the most important thing you’ll do as a leader.  Yes, you’ll most likely need help implementing it, but in the end you, the leader, are responsible for its creation.  Don’t delegate your most important role.

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