“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, June 2005

As a leader, you have a responsibility to provide direction, to “point the way”. You do this through creating a shared vision of the future. You can’t delegate this task. While you can, and must, collaborate with others in building a shared vision, you can’t walk away from your primary responsibility to create that vision. You have to own it.

Now take note that I’m not talking about creating a vision statement. I believe many vision statements unfortunately become the lazy person’s way of getting “that Vision thing” off their to-do list. As a consequence, these vision statements cause more harm than good. A vision is how you see the future, and it needs to be challenging, inspiring and most importantly it needs to provoke a discussion. Most vision statements fail miserably in meeting these requirements. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t create such statements, but do so with the aim in mind of using the statement to START a discussion, not to be a substitute for that discussion.

Here are some tips on how to craft and use a vision statement to create a discussion about the future:

  • Make the statement provocative. Avoid motherhood and apple pie wordings. Instead, issue a challenge to yourself and others. Remember JFK’s vision to achieve supremacy in space by “landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade”
  • Keep it short and simple. Disney used “make people happy” as their challenge.
  • Focus on a tangible end result, and leave out how to achieve it. Think FedEx and “overnight parcel delivery”.
That’s it. Simple but not easy as you will have to cut through all the clutter and complexity that currently exists in your organization, including that carefully crafted vision statement you have on your wall…or maybe hidden away in a binder on your bookshelf or a folder on your hard drive.