Part of the challenge for any leader is to get the team to agree on what direction it should go. In other words, the question is: “How do you create a shared vision?”
It’s easy to get things out of order. Both inexperienced and seasoned leaders can fall into the trap of hoping that by “casting a vision,” they can create emotional buy in. Casting a vision is certainly an important task for any leader, but it has to come at the right time. If leaders are to succeed in creating a shared vision, they must find a way to combine two possibly very different ingredients:
- The Ideas of the Team
- The Convictions of the Leader
Before a leader attempts to cast a compelling vision of what the team needs to do or become, he/she must find a way to hear and incorporate the ideas of all of the team members about things such as: their own ambitions for the team, their insights about possible innovations, their experiences with current processes, and their wisdom about the way forward.
When a leader really knows the people on the team, listens to them, and takes their advice, it creates an emotional connection. It makes people feel important, and it moves the vision from “me” to “we.” Many leaders rely too much on their ability to persuade in order to create a “shared” vision, and not enough on allowing the team to contribute to the ingredients of the vision.
Perhaps the reason that so many leaders are afraid to really listen to the ideas of the team is that they are afraid those ideas will hijack the team. This is understandable because the leader has a set of objectives to achieve, and his/her success is measured by whether the team reaches these objectives.
These are what we might call the leader’s convictions. These are things that cannot be sacrificed or ignored. They are just as important as the input of the team because they give definition, direction, and energy. The leader has to know what they are and communicate them in an effective way.
When a leader finally reaches that stage of casting a vision before the team, it needs to be both like looking in a mirror at themselves, and looking through a window at the heart of the leader. Too much or too little of either one will create a distortion.
If the leader starts with the ideas of the team and skillfully mixes it with his/her own convictions, there is a much greater chance of creating a shared vision that will inspire everyone to pull in the same direction without concern about who gets credit for success.