Vision - not just for CEOs.

Author:Silvers, David I.

Vision is a picture of what a leader wants their organization to become. It focuses on an end result, but not necessarily how to get there. A vision is achieved if it is built on a foundation of core values and beliefs, a purpose, mission and goals.

Where there is no vision, the people perish . . ."

Proverbs 29:18

It is time for first-line supervisors and mid-level managers to jump on the vision bandwagon. Vision is the buzzword of the '90s; a subject included in nearly every management or leadership training course. The captains of industry have been told to envision the future of their companies. Books and articles abound on the subject. Vision, however, has usually been considered the purview of senior management, after all, they are the only ones who have the authority to set a vision for the company - at least that is what we've been led to believe.

We have failed to create managers with vision because we have dealt with vision on a much higher plane. We have concentrated on the vision of CEOs and corporate vice-presidents. Where vision is truly needed is at the critical lower levels of management. Vision need not be confined by organizational boundaries. Vision is a tool of the leader and leaders can and should exist throughout an organization.

Vision provides one of the major distinctions between leaders and managers at any level. A leader who has no vision can be nothing more than an organizational caretaker. A leader without a vision operates only at a resource level. "We have here one of the clearest distinctions between the leader and the manager. By focusing attention on a vision, the leader operates on the emotional and spiritual resources of the organization, on its values, commitments, and aspirations" (Bennis & Nanus, 1985, p. 92-93).

Simply said, managers administer while leaders innovate. Managers take a short-term view while leaders are concerned also with the long term. Some writers have equated visionary leadership with position, contending that leaders are only found at "the top" of the organization. A cliche that attempts to describe the difference between management and leadership says that management is knowing how to climb the ladder while leadership determines if the ladder is against the right wall. This statement leads one to conclude that it is only at the top where direction can be questioned. This may be so when the questioning involves the fundamental direction of the company as a whole, but there is no reason why any leader cannot question the direction of his or her own department. After all, it is the sum of the parts that make the whole.

The manager/leader must realize that his or her vision has a direct impact on the entire enterprise. While the direction of a particular department may already be in consonance with the company as a whole, the processes that take place in the department are often ripe for improvement and innovation.

Regardless of where it originates, vision is a picture of the future. It is the result of looking beyond what is, to what could be. Innovative vision is appropriate regardless of the placement of an organization within an overall hierarchy. While many managers profess to have goals for...

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