“Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own.” ~ Roy Bennett
As we move further into 2021, organizations are starting to put plans in place to begin working face-to-face full-time again, or committing to full-time virtual work, or a hybrid of the two. Leadership continues to play an essential role in this process. They also have the role of determining the go-forward Business Model from which the organization now intends to operate. Each organization must take into account lessons learned from 2020 and predictions for 2021 forward as they lean into new realities.
And, let's not forget the employees, many of whom have also learned a few things this past year – about what they value, how they like/do not like to work, and with whom they want to work. To this end – Leaders need to understand three key areas of successful leadership: Vision, Alignment, and Execution (which altogether lead to better business results and greater employee engagement). These times remain both exciting and daunting for organizations, leaders, and employees.
Have your organization’s leaders adapted to the new challenges/the new realities? Have YOU adapted?
In our last blog, we talked about Adaptive Leadership. We mentioned that we had an instrument to help your organization assess how "change-ready" your leaders are. Using our Work of Leaders assessment, a leader or leadership team can assess their current capability in three main areas: Vision, Alignment, and Execution. We'll discuss these three areas of leadership in this blog.
Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
~ Warren G. Bennis
Quoting Warren Bennis: Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Let's break that simple statement down.
- Capacity – the ability or power to do something in this case translate vision into reality.
- Translate – convert something to another form. Vision - a mental image of what the future will or could be like.
- Reality - a thing that exists in fact, having previously only existed in one's mind.
So, leadership is the ability or power to convert a mental image of what the future will or could be like, to become a thing that exists in fact. Visionary leadership is key to change and culture because it tells a story about the WHY of the change and inspires peopleto embracethe change and the new culture.
When many of us think of visionary leadership, we think of senior leaders or a single senior leader like the CEO. Visionary capability at the senior levels is essential for an organization. Visionary leadership is also vital for middle managers or anyone leading a team.
The tricky aspect of vision for the middle manager is the need to align their vision with the organization’s overall vision. For this reason, we often see middle managers waiting for the message to come "from on high" and letting their teams flounder in the process waiting for inspiring direction.
Our advice to middle managers (often leaders at the VP or Director level) – is don't wait. At this level in the organization, you are most likely in contact with customers and must shape your business or department’s direction. You should be able to craft a vision and then socialize it with upper management to make sure it's on track. And perhaps this very act will also inspire your senior leaders to beef up their visionary skills.
Visioning is a capability that anyone can develop. It takes practice, trial and error, hard work, and commitment but is worth the effort. Your employees will thank you, stay with you, and work hard with you. Without it, your competitors may become the new winners.
So, leaders are people who exercise their ability or power to convert a mental image of what the future will or could be like, to become a thing that exists in fact. We add some caveats to that definition. These leaders operate through others either through delegation or through influence. This definition requires that to be a leader; the person must be working from a vision causing a new reality.
A leader is anyone who is causing change to occur, usually in a group, a team, or an organizational context. We like to add “intentionally positive” as a descriptor of change because there are people who cause change that is not positive who technically are leaders.
This definition of a leader has nothing to do with the title the person may or, may not have, nor does it require any level, position, or role. The word "leader" does not have to be associated with the person. There are often people who are leaders who do not have the moniker even though they are working on the vision towards a reality that is stretching their and the people around them’s capabilities.
We would not consider someone who is managing with the intent to maintain the status quo would not be considered a leader regardless of their title or position.
Now that we know who they are and who they are not, let's talk about what the work of being a leader is all about. There have been many books and programs written to help people become good, better, and great leaders.
Making the Vision a Reality
The following description is “based on the best practices from 300 experts in over 150 organizations, the important work of prominent scholars, and over four years of additional research and development” (Straw, 2013.)
This is an actionable path toward effective leadership has one unified model of leadership—Vision, Alignment, and Execution. ~ Straw, 2013
Leaders start with a strong vision of the future for their groups, teams, and or organizations. These same groups, teams, and organizations will also be the ones who will do the work of execution.
These visions are not simple dreams. The visions we are talking about are strong, crafted, well thought out and explored, big picture, well tested bold future states for the group, team, or organization. So much so that the leader sees the vision "painted" in vivid living color, as if it already exists, which it does in their minds. "Experienced leaders see vision as critical to leader's work" (Straw, 2013.)
The first basic ingredient of leadership is a guiding vision. …Unless you know where you are going and why, you cannot possibly get there. ~Warren Bennis
Once a leader has a vision, they must gain alignment inside the group, team or organization to that vision. The people following must be able to see the benefits of the vision for themselves so that they can buy-in to the "dream." These are not just the folks who report to the leader, they are all the people affected by the vision.
To get there from here the leader must clearly share the vision, including a simple explanation for the need to create the new reality in the vision. The leader must be transparent and straightforward, and the vision must make sense to everyone.
The leader will need to use many strategies for communicating the vision, written, spoken to many, and in dialogue, be clear and inspirational. In aligned organizations, every employee understands the vision, the strategy, and the goals of the business and how their work contributes to it all.
Without strong visionary leadership, no strategy will be executed effectively. ~ Robert S Kaplan
Successful execution of a vision can't happen without the deep commitment and active championing of the leader (Straw, 2013). The keywords in that statement are deep commitment and championing. For the vision to become a reality the leader must be deeply committed to championing that vision throughout the organization. The messages coming from the leader will give inspiration to the organization to drop any work that does not bring that vision to fruition. The leader must communicate so that each person can easily make the connection of their work to the new future. One could say that the vision is nothing without execution, and in fact, the vision will die unless it is executed.
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. ~ Jack Welch
How We Can Support the Work of Leaders
One way is the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders Program.
Everything DiSC Work of Leaders® lays out a clear path for helping leaders at all levels make the connection between their DiSC® style and leadership. Bringing together best practices from 300 experts in over 150 organizations, the important work of the most prominent scholars, and over four years of additional research and development, this all-inclusive classroom and online program approaches leadership as a one-to-many relationship. The model of leadership—vision, alignment, and execution—focuses on helping leaders understand their own leadership styles and how their tendencies influence their effectiveness in specific leadership situations.
Everything DiSC Work of Leaders
- A simple, compelling model of leadership
- Personalized insights to leverage strengths and overcome challenges
- A clear path for improvement
The profile provides detailed feedback based on the Vision, Alignment, and Executionframework and the three drivers associated with each step.
In this 23-page profile, participants will:
- Craft a Vision through exploration, boldness, and testing assumptions
- Build Alignment through clarity, dialog, and inspiration
- Champion Execution through momentum, structure, and feedback the profile may be used on its own or with the companion facilitation; sold separately
- Recognize the priorities and tendencies, based on their own DiSC style, that shape their approach to the fundamental work of leaders: creating a vision, building alignment around that vision, and championing execution of the vision
- Explore in detail how to play to their strengths and overcome challenges to improve their leadership effectiveness
- Identify strategies to develop preferred behaviors based on context-specific best practices
James and Lori
James Jackman, MSOD & Lori Heffelfinger, MSOD
Supporting business leaders and HR/OD Leaders to transform cultures and transition
through the pandemic and beyond.
- "Everything DiSC Work of Leaders", Wiley and Sons, MindLab Connect
- “Why Visionary Leadership Fails”, Harvard Business Review 2019
- “Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment, and Execution Will Change the Way you Lead” by Straw, Scullard, Kukkoenen, Davis