Creating a Vision of Greatness Surfacing a leaders values can be expedited with an unconventional process By David A. Pilati How do managers differ from leaders? When does a manager become a leader? These age-old questions were addressed in an award-winning Harvard Business Review article titled “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” authored by A. Zaleznik. The questions continue to be asked many years later. Zaleznik compared managers to leaders along four dimensions: attitudes towards goals; conceptions of work; relations with others; and sense of self. With regard to goals, a manager tends to be impersonal and reactionary. A leader takes a more active role in setting goals in a personal way. The act of creating a vision for a company or work group is both active and highly personal — that is the act of leadership. Another author, Peter Block, says that “Creating this vision is our essential act of leadership.” Block’s book, The Empowered Manager, makes the important distinction between positive and negative politics while laying the groundwork for creating a vision of greatness. When self-interest is defined as the pursuit of safety, control, advancement, approval and territory for its own sake, a bureaucratic system of operation results. If a person feels, in some way, owned by the organization and only served by climbing the ladder, that person is engaged in negative politics. The result is a loss in autonomy and the acceptance of a high degree of manipulative behavior, which is usually an attempt to influence others without telling them. Positive politics is, first and foremost, serving the organization and making personal advancement a secondary concern. This task can be made easier by focusing on how the organization can truly make a difference and building an organization that expresses our values about work, achievement and community. If your goal is to build an entrepreneurial organization, it is necessary to create a vision of greatness that expresses values — what you hope to contribute, how you treat people, how you want to be treated and your response to opposition. Your integrity is demonstrated by your willingness to live out this vision. VISION STATEMENTS A vision statement is an expression of a desired future for an organization. It may be a goal that may never actually be attained. A vision describes the kind of organization the leader wants, and once articulated, people act in ways to create that future. A vision statement is an expression of the leader’s values and how they affect the work place. It is strategic, lofty and optimistic. It is focused on customers, able to capture the imagination of others and an expression of greatness. A vision statement is a fantasy about how you would like your organization to be. TIPS FOR CREATING A VISION Block’s groundwork for creating a vision includes the following tips: • Forget about being number one: The desire to be first is a reflection of the myopic self-interest that characterizes negative politics. • Don’t be practical: Being too practical will stifle the creation of a vision of greatness, an expression from the heart. • Begin with your customers: The long-term survival of all organizations depends on how well they serve their internal and external customers. • You can’t treat your customers any better than you treat each other: How you treat the external world will be a reflection of how you treat each other. • If your vision statement sounds like motherhood and apple pie and is somewhat embarrassing, you are on the right track: A vision is an expression of hope and idealism and implies that anything is possible. VISION PITFALLS Block’s groundwork for the vision statement is both compelling and challenging in its implementation. Like most theories, there are numerous roadblocks to its practical application. How does the would-be leader access his/her most treasured values? The question of values has been raised on the political and social scene with many commentaries on America’s apparent lack of values. Perhaps it’s not the lack of values that is the problem, but an overabundance. In our diverse world which holds the value of individual freedom in high regard, having clarity about the priorities among so many values may be both a social problem and a personal one when attempting to create a vision. How does one know if a vision statement is complete in its coverage? The desired behavior towards customers, vendors and the organization are clearly important items for consideration. Traditional management behavior is usually very practical and a far cry from an expression of one’s spiritual and idealistic side. The question that needs to be answered is: How does one become inspirational? For practical-minded individuals, the vision statement groundwork can leave them looking for structure with boundaries to complete the task. VISION STATEMENT PROCESS To address the process pitfalls, a systematic approach has been developed to gently guide the vision creator. This process consists of a workbook of incomplete sentences, a sample of completed vision statements from others, a list of questions and a list of inspiring words. Vision creators are instructed to complete the workbook at their leisure when they can reflect on their life, work and future. The workbook uses incomplete sentences, such as the following: The attitudes and behaviors that I appreciate most from my colleagues include ______ ______________________________________________________. When our employees speak about their managers, I would like them to say ___________ ______________________________________________________. I would like my managers to view their employees as __________________________. For me, an outstanding manager conjures up the following images ________________ _________________________________________________________________. The above process typically results in six to 12 statements of what is really of utmost importance to the leader. Editing and wordsmithing are then undertaken with the assistance of an extensive vocabulary list of potent and inspiring words, such as autonomy, courage, democratic, family, innovative, integrity, prestige and wisdom. The goal is to make each value statement clearly stated, easily understood and inspiring to others. People at the top of organizations and some at the head of departments are now creating visions for themselves and their people. No two are alike. Some are short, some are wordy — all are compelling. The following vision statement titled, We Believe, was created by Jim Dorman, CEO of Success Business Industries and three other companies. Articulating a vision forces one to take a stand for a pre- ferred future. Communicating this vision to others is required of successful leaders. We Believe Every person, every customer and every vendor of every one of our organiza tions will be treated with dignity and respect. We are small talented organizations. . with the ability to move rapidly with initiative.. . to take risks.. . and to react to opportunity or required change while maximizing individual contributions, development and fulfillment. We must, however, always keep in mind the mutuality of interests and our duty and loyalty to each other. We must recognize our responsibility to ourselves, our families and our fellow employees to improve ourselves and our performance within our organizations for our mutual benefit and security. The leadership of each organization will strive to provide a safe, pleasant, nonpolitical environment to work and to support and strengthen our communities, state and national organizations and government and the ideals for which each stands. We will have a family of companies which are financially sound, profitable and recognized for their adherence to the ideals of support for individual achievement for the benefit of all. We believe!
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