People want to believe. They want to know what their leaders see for the future. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, but they want also to be a part of something they understand and can believe in.
Barack Obama won. He won easily even though we don’t really know what he’ll be like in office. He won because his message was one of hope and optimism (Yes We Can) even while acknowledging the difficulty of the task ahead.
Great leaders have a vision of their business in the future, and they have the ability to articulate that vision so that their people can understand and buy into it.
A vision is nothing like what most companies call “vision statements” — you know, the list of high-flying generalities (“Our vision is to be the best provider of widgets in the acme industry.”) That’s not a vision. That’s a bunch of words that don’t really connect to anyone on an emotional level. And that’s the important part of a real leader’s vision — the ability for people to connect emotionally. Did you see the faces of people in Grant Park last night?
A vision paints a picture of the future that can be experienced vicariously by the listener. That makes hope real, even if it’s not tangible.
The ability to articulate that vision is the second key, because unless the vision is articulated, it won’t be experienced in the imagination. And if it’s not experienced, it’s not fully communicated.
If you want to get a high return on people, you need to have a vision and be able to articulate it. People work harder, are more innovative, and more engaged if they connect both intellectually and emotionally to the vision and the strategy. When they aren’t given the vision, or when it doesn’t connect, they become cynical. Cynical people go through the motions and infect others with their energy-sapping opinions. They sure don’t perform anywhere near their potential.
Obama won on hope. Now he has to deliver. Let’s hope he’s successful, and do what we can to help.