I started this year talking about the importance of having a personal touch in leadership and the difference it can make in understanding, developing and implementing your organization's mission. But before you work on making it personal, you must establish a clear vision first.
John Thurlbeck, an organizational and leadership development expert, uses a case study to reinforce five reasons why having a vision is vital to success.
- Vision is the starting point of leadership. Having a clear vision of where you want to take your organization makes it easier for you to communicate to your team and get buy in.
- Vision determines direction. Once your vision is set, establishing the plan and goals to get there flow from it.
- Vision is something to serve. "Visionless [organizations] will eventually be led by self-serving leaders," Thurlbeck writes. As I've emphasized before, those who practice servant leadership are more likely to gain trust and loyalty from employees.
- Vision overcomes the power of criticism. For those employees that would prefer to stick to the old ways of doing things – who Thurlbeck calls "squeaky wheels" – a strong vision will motivate others to move forward and limit the slowdown caused by squeaky wheels.
- Vision creates unity. A clear vision gets people excited because they know what they're working toward and feel a strong sense of purpose.
Once you have your vision, everything ties back to it. At NAFCU, our vision is to be the best financial services trade association in Washington. From that vision, we use advocacy, education and compliance assistance to get us there. Those three concentrations also support our mission of strengthening credit unions, which is guided by our values: member-driven, passion, excellence.
Within my industry, especially, having a clear vision is extremely important not only for CEOs and executive teams, but for boards of directors who guide their institutions through opportunities and challenges. But honing your vision is tied to your leadership skills. It gets easier the more you participate in the various year-round conferences, courses, and seminars specifically built for executives, volunteers and emerging leaders. Effective leadership is something that must be practiced, and skills like crafting a clear vision, while not easy, are certainly possible.
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