The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader


I’ve been around large corporations throughout most of my career.  When leadership starts talking about wanting a ‘vision statement’ I start to get nervous.  You never know what approach will be used.  Staff that have been around the block a few times just sit back and ignore it because more often than not it flashes in the pan and is never mentioned again.

Leaders lead.  The ‘vision’ for an organization should be the vision of where the leader of the organization wants to go.  Nothing is more frustrating for workers than a leader who really doesn’t know where he or she is going. If a leader hopes to succeed, their vision needs to be clearly understood by the masses and more importantly it must be concrete and attainable.  It has to do more than sound good or look good on paper, it needs to have real meaning.  When the workers read it they need to be able to understand exactly how what they do every day contributes to reaching the goal of leadership’s vision.

“First management had plans, and then strategic plans. Now we have vision, and we’re only one small step from hallucination.”
–  Ainsley Throckmorton, Bangor Seminary

Too often, a vision is created by consensus.  Leadership decides a company/organization needs a vision to motivate the staff, but then asks that very staff to contribute ideas for what the vision should be!  Even worse, a vision is created based on an amalgamation of suggestions.  Nobody is leading, it doesn’t really have a concrete goal, probably uses a lot of the latest management-speak, and once written it will be put into a drawer and never see the light of day again.

It’s leadership’s job to guide the business and make sure it is successful.  A big part of doing that is adapting and changing – reacting to new technology, new markets, new competitors, and any event that could impact the ability of the business to reach its goals.  A vision statement should be all about how we react to change, or how we drive change.  It’s not vague, it’s direct and to the point. Steve Jobs had an elegant vision for Apple Computer – “Think Different.”  That’s a clear message to the staff, and as long as management supports their people taking the risks of following through, it’s really effective.

So a vision statement doesn’t have to be long-winded or full of fancy words.  It simply needs to clearly tell your employees how to approach their work.

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