Casting vision: A critical leadership skill

The ability to cast vision is a critical skill required by leaders. Unfortunately many leaders mistakenly cast process instead of vision leaving followers confused about how they can contribute resulting in an inability to buy in.

A good vision statement should not be built around verbs (verbs are “doing” words). A vision statement is a description of the goal or vision and it’s how you’ll know if and when you’ve succeeded. Many of the world’s leading companies use the words “to be”, “will be”, or “become” in their vision statement because the vision is the ultimate goal.

A good mission statement is about how. This is where “doing” words (verbs) come in. The mission statement is the skeleton of what you will do to achieve the ultimate vision or goal. Words like “delivering” or “pursuing” or “being” are key in a mission statement.

The mission statement is the “how will” to the vision statement’s “will be”.

Building a vision statement around a verb is dangerous because it’s the vision that is cast to inspire “followers”. The vision must tell them what they are or will be a part of, not what’s required of them. Telling people what’s required of them in your vision is telling them what you want them to do or be rather than what they will want to be a part of.

Using a volunteer organisation as an example:

The vision: To be the largest supplier of relief to the poor in Australia. (TO BE)
The mission: By advocating to governments through…. (ADVOCATING)

This vision clearly states the goal and provides something others can “buy in” to because the destination is clear.
If we mix the mission into the vision and get:
The vision: Advocating to governments and relief agencies for the poor.

What we’re saying is:
We have not yet achieved it. (Remember vision is the goal.)This is the only way we’ll do it. (Remember vision is ultimate.)

Our measure of success is whether we are advocating or not, not what happens to the poor. (Remember vision is the destination.)

What this means is unless someone’s passion is lobbying government there’s not much to buy in to. They may want to help the poor but your way won’t suit them and they’re not sure it works anyway.

Similarly, if your existing people feel they got onboard to help the poor but all you want to do is lobby the government you may create an itch that turns into a festering sore.

Casting vision means giving people a picture of the destination. How you take them there is the journey and may involve many delays and detours but that’s a small price to pay for the ultimate destination.

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