Vision – A desired end-state that focuses your actions and provides guidance to others (even in your absence)
The above is the VOCL definition of vision, which is broken down into three different aspects:
- Leader vision – this is your own vision for yourself
- Follower vision – this is the vision that an individual (other than the leader) has for herself or himself
- Group vision – this is the vision of the group (a combination of leader and followers)
(There is another aspect of vision, that of outside stakeholder vision, which can influence the successes or potentially cause failures for your team, but I will save this for another post.)
These aspects of vision are seen by the following Venn diagram:
In order to place some context to the above, let’s use the creation of a social group for your five-year-old daughter in your neighbourhood. There are none now, so you want to start one.
This is the reason, the WHY, you have decided to create a social group. If you have no vision, then you can’t effectively lead others. Maybe you want her to have friends, trying to fulfil a social aspect of growing up. Maybe YOU want to have friends while your daughter is playing. Maybe you have just moved into the neighbourhood and want to get to know your neighbours. Whatever the cause, this is the reason that you are trying to bring others into your vision. This is the reason that you are trying to assume a leadership role – someone has to get the idea started!
This is the reason that they would accept being a follower. During the initial stages, they may not even know you, especially if you’ve just moved into the neighbourhood. So why would they follow you? In order to be interested, there has to be some idea that ties into their vision, even if they haven’t had a chance to think of it yet. For example, if a person has no kids, then they are unlikely to become a follower, no matter how compelling your vision may be to you. If they have a twelve-year-old daughter, then they may become interested. Not for the playdate, but for the potential at babysitting / supervising the playgroup. You’ll notice that both you and the follower may be interested in the concept, but for different reasons. This aspect may lead to negotiations and can bring about an entirely different dynamic or vision. Finally, if the follower has a five-year-old daughter, they may think “finally, a group for my child”. In this last situation, your vision and that of your follower are closely aligned.
This is where the leader’s vision and the follower’s vision intersect, and this is where leadership is very important. We’ve already looked at three simplified relationships between the leader and the follower: no common ground, potentially interested yet unaligned and aligned. You can try to get someone who has no common ground to buy into your vision, but you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle for potentially little gain. It’ll be easiest to work with someone who wants the same thing for the same reason – you have so much common ground! Probably your most challenging task will be to lead the group that is interested yet unaligned. I’ll be discussing some alignment strategies in a future post.
The group vision is the most exciting of the three because that is where the ideas come to life. You get to carry out your vision. You get to carry out the vision of your followers. The greatest advantage, however, is that you get to create something as a group. In the process of discussing your vision with your followers and them discussing their vision with you, you may discover ideas and benefits that you had not previously thought about. For example, this community playgroup can lead to a closer community that looks out for one another, increasing the security for all. It may lead to helping others in time of need, such as the shovelling of a driveway of a single parent who has a young child, etc.
The group vision, however, becomes increasingly challenging once the group gets larger. You can see that the above diagrams have been a simple representation of one leader and one follower – this is rarely the case. When you have more followers, the process is the same but you have more individual visions to keep in mind, and trying to find the common ground can be more difficult. Having said that, the potential benefits grow with each additional follower.
I have provided an insight into the vision categories of leader, follower and group in the context of a community, but they are equally valid in business, non-profit, government, etc. As an individual, you need to have your own vision. You need to understand that your followers have their own vision. As a leader, you need to be able to blend these together – the better that you can do this, the better the result. Just imagine what you and your team can accomplish together!