In electing me to office, my fellow citizens have entrusted me with the sacred duty of shaping the future of our community. Because I am committed to creating a future that is brighter and healthier and more beneficial to all citizens than when I was called to lead, I will:
- Base my decisions on the next generation more than the next election, committed to the ideal that my loyalty must be to the entire community (both now and in the future) and not merely to those who got me elected.
- Focus on mission, vision and values as the benchmark for my decisions and recognize that my responsibility is the pursuit of the greatest good for the entire community and not the satisfaction of any particular group’s agenda.
- Make decisions based on fact based evidence and not allow myself to be manipulated into bad decisions for the future based on the decibel level of critics.
- Recognize that “it takes a smart man to know where he is stupid” and have the wisdom to be smart. Accordingly, I will value those who have the courage to tell me what they really think and will listen sincerely to those who disagree with me to truly understand their perspective, recognizing that understanding other perspectives makes me a better leader.
- Embrace my responsibility to govern rather than to manage; recognizing that if I am doing staff’s job I am not doing my job, while also understanding and embracing the appropriately exercised governance role of holding staff accountable.
- Place a greater emphasis on solutions than on problems; while refusing to offer solutions before I understand the problem.
- Understand that mutual trust is the foundation for everything and that if I refuse to trust others they will be unable to trust me.
- Protect the integrity of the process more than the rightness of my position; I will fight hard for my issue but then unify behind the governing body when the decision is made because the decision was made with integrity of process, even if I disagree with the outcome.
- Understand that my deeply held beliefs, values and positions will be strengthened, not compromised by courteous, respectful and civil discourse. I will not treat someone as the enemy just because we disagree.
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect because of who I am as a leader… not because of how they treat me or what I think about them.
- Be a role model for civility. I will not treat my colleagues or staff in any way that I would be embarrassed if my five year old child treated someone the same way.
I think that there may be a shift taking place along the leadership horizon from an overemphasis on vision back to a neglected emphasis on execution. As I listen to what leaders are talking about to their staffs, and what they are putting the focus on in their organizations, I notice that more and more of them are putting a larger emphasis on the execution side of the equation.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the importance of vision. We need it. Too many organizations lack a compelling vision that unifies them, and leaders must accept the responsibility to inspire a shared vision that creates passion and excitement about the future. However, as has been said, “Vision without execution is just hallucination.” If we have created the impression within the organization that execution takes a backseat, then we may have oversold the importance of vision just a bit.
The key has to be keeping a balance. There must be a balance between vision and execution, between leadership and management, and between change and continuity. It has to be both/and—not either/or. Neglect either vision or execution, and sooner than later, your organization will stop showing the signs of health—and they will be replaced with the telltale signs of a floundering team.
So what does it take to keep the balance between execution and vision? I suppose in some ways it’s like riding a bicycle: you have to keep pedaling. Vision expires and executions requires. As the leader, you are not the sole source of vision, nor must you be the fountain of vision. However, you cannot delegate vision. You have to include others, but no one can legitimately initiate vision without you. Vision runs through your office. Whether you are good at it or not, and whether you enjoy it or not, letting your organization run without fresh vision is like running your car on empty—responsible leaders just don’t do it.
At the same time (and, I do mean at the same time!) you have to give execution the attention it requires. It requires establishing clear expectations and scheduling regular inspections. As someone I heard say recently, “Don’t expect what you do not inspect.” Sounds impossible, right? It’s not, but it requires discipline and establishing a culture of doing, not just talking. The most helpful advice I’ve held on to when it comes to getting things done is a simple proverb that can be paraphrased like this: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.”
There’s never a perfect time for getting things done. Execution always has to be done in a context of being understaffed, overworked, and underfunded. If you wait for those things to be perfect, you’ll never get anything done. That’s the shift I hear leaders starting to make. The excuse that we can’t because…and the dream of “we would if we could” is giving way to the grittiness of execution. That is the freeway to success that great visions drive on.