The leader’s vision should drive the organization. True or false? While leadership’s vision is supposed to guide the organization down the path, it just isn’t that simple. No matter how much we try to get our people to “buy-in” to our finely crafted and polished vision, their own personal motivations and values will always be the determining factor in what they do or how well they perform.
“Buy-in.” I hate the term. It turns a leader into a salesperson. Not that I have anything against salespeople. “Some of my best friends, etc., etc.” However, “buy-in” conjures up images of used cars, “flim-flam men” and Professor Harold Hill from the Music Man. Popular leadership tells us that selling the people on a vision gets them excited and will make them own it and commit to it. In fact, a recent bestseller compares rationality to a Rider and emotion to an Elephant. The Rider may think she’s steering the elephant but watch out when the elephant decides to go its own way! The gurus say, sell the vision to the elephant and the rider will follow.
It’s just that the leader as salesperson is a tremendous waste of energy and resources. Once a vision is “sold” to someone there must be a tremendous effort made to keep it sold. Savvy CEO’s realize this, making special “vision” appearances but delegating “vision-selling” to others. In reality a leader needs to be focused on industry developments, serious challenges coming at the organization, management tune-up, shareholder expectations, etc.
However, if a leader can tap into the motivations and values of people, vision does not have to be sold, at least not continually. Construct a corporate vision from the values people already have and you’ll find them excited for new projects, for new ways of expansion. They become scouts looking for uncharted territory. How can you make this happen?
Change your own understanding of the “vision thing.” Enough with the whole “go to the mountain, bring back the tablets of vision” idea! Instead, realize that your organization has already assembled a group of thinking adults who choose to affiliate with your group. What is their understanding of what you are about? Naturally, only a few people will have the whole picture. That’s because few people have the overall perspective you bring as the leader of the organization. Each person does however have a piece of the puzzle. Construct the vision of your group out of the pieces of your people’s motivations and values and you’ll find the elephant and the rider arriving at the right destination at the right time.