Monday, August 27, 2012

Vision Comes From The People

It is not the responsibility of a leader to decide where to go, but to show people how to get there. I’ve used this space to talk about leadership before. Not long ago, I wrote about the misuse of the word vision by Michael Hyatt, Jack Welch, and John Maxwell. I argued that vision in the truest sense is a vision sent from God. But let’s take a step back and look at their kind of vision.

As you know, a lot of people are trying to develop a vision. We hear about things like vision statements. Once you have a vision statement you are supposed to cast a vision. Then people are supposed to follow you like cows to the feed trough. While that sounds good, people don’t always do what you tell them they ought to do. Take church, for example. For centuries, we’ve been telling people they ought to go to church. Some do. Some don’t.

But I’m reminded of the wagon trains that used to head out west. Who in their right mind would leave Missouri to ride across Kansas in a wagon? And yet, there were men who led many people, not only across Kansas but some went all the way to California. What vision casters these men must have been.

Or not. The thing is, these men didn’t have to try hard to get people to follow them. They didn’t go knocking on people’s doors looking for people to go. Instead, the desire for adventure, the hope of a better life, the quest for gold all played a part in persuading people that west was where they wanted to go. The men who led them just got in front of them.

No matter what example we look at, great leaders aren’t the ones who spend a great deal of time persuading people that they know where to go. Instead, they get in front of people who are heading in that direction and guide them along the way. What that means is that vision doesn’t come from the leader. As far as the leader is concerned, vision comes from the people he is leading. The people may have gotten that vision from God or they may not have, but the leader is simply guiding the people where they want to go.

No so in the business world, you might say. But think about it. A leader who leads his company to success isn’t leading his workers to do something they don’t already want to do. What worker is there that doesn’t want to see his company succeed? Most workers have a general idea of what success for the company looks like and that’s what they want because it keeps food on the table and diapers on the babies. If the company sells books, well, the employees know that selling more books is what success is. What they are looking for is someone who can tell them how to work together to sell more books.

That, I believe, is where many leaders fail. Instead of trying to tell people where to go, they should be helping their people overcome the obstacles that are keeping them from the vision they already have.