One of the most important attributes of any great leader is the ability to transform into a visionary. Indeed, myriad studies have been done on the importance of vision in leadership and there is concurrence that after any leader without a vision drags the entire project down.
What is Vision?
In their study, Dale Christenson and Derek H.T. Walker posit that vision is something that helps clarify the direction a project is to take. But they go further to argue that it also helps to articulate a view of a realistic, credible and attractive future for any project through its lifetime. In other words it is a tool used by a leader to engender passion and meaning into any ongoing work in order to meet the envisioned goals.
In his unforgettable 1961 inaugural speech president J.F. Kennedy implored both sides of the political debate to become visionaries. He emphatically told these leaders to invoke the wonders of the science instead of its terrors, to explore the stars, eradicate disease and conquer the deserts. In this remarkable speech the president-elect was exhorting the importance of vision as part of the new leadership.
Vision is, thus, a big picture of how things ought to be; it entails you dreaming big in order to see where you want your company to head and what you want your client’s project to look like. It is critical to remember that there are two visions involved; that of your project management company and that of the project.
The Vision Process
You can use your vision to mobilize your project team to achieve more. To ensure this works, these steps must be involved:
- Developing the vision
- Communicating the vision with others
- Modifying the group’s vision with the rest of the team
It Boils Down to Communication
From this perspective it is obvious that without a vision your project is doomed to fail. If the leader does not offer a vision for the team then members will be groping, which will lead to ultimate failure. Nevertheless, you might have the best vision but if you don’t communicate your ideas to the team, it is as well as non-existent.
John McManus, Senior Research fellow at the Faculty of Business Management and Computing at Lincoln University, published an article in the Computer Weekly saying that while vision is a key component of leadership, it is of little use if it is not communicated to others. The researcher goes on to say that only when a vision is communicated does its fruits begin to be seen.
A 2013 Pulse of the Profession™ report shows that for every US $1 billion used in a project US$135 is at risk. Ineffective communication poses a startling 56% of this devastating risk. This highlights the need for free flow of information irrespective of the magnitude of a project. Vision communication is one of the most important aspects of project communication, which is another reason you need to focus on it.
To appreciate the rationale behind communicating this vision in the clearest terms consider Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s thoughts on the same. The pioneering French aviator and writer emphasizes the need for communicating a vision by saying, “that if you want to build the best ship there is no need to drum up the need to collect wood and other materials. Instead you should teach them to yearn for the far seas and this way they will be motivated to build a vessel that will take them there.” In a team every member is important and this makes it crucial to appreciate their input towards achieving your vision.
Communicating Your Vision Effectively
Now that you appreciate the importance of the vision to visualize the end results, it is time to communicate this to your team members. Remember you are the one to come up with the tentative vision but this is not to diminish the value of sharing to your project.
Here are some highlights that make communication of this bigger picture an ineluctable part of every successful project:
1. Sign of Quality Leadership
When Kennedy went before the nation to delineate the vision, his administration cautioned him because this allowed the opposition to have free ammunition to attack the young leader. Nevertheless, the American nation stood behind this project leader because sharing a vision is a sign of boldness.
It is a way of saying “I am the captain of the ship and I know these waters so relax”. As a project leader you will gain more respect when your reports realize you have a road map for the project other than the specific objectives given by the company.
2. Collaborative Benefits
One of the most frustrating but crucial aspects in creating a successful project is team-building. A suave leader will involve every member in the vision building process by bringing to the table what they have and then brainstorming on the same.
The idea here is to inculcate a clear picture of what you have in mind to help them work towards achieving the same. In simple terms every collaborative activity in your team leads to cohesion and increased productivity. Collaboration is the best way to create an effective team right from the start and communicating your vision creates an ideal chance to achieve this.
Good project managers and indeed leaders in general are supposed to inspire. A report published on PM Times says that a great leader is able to lift up the team, give them a reason for being and provide a vision to guide the way. By sharing your vision you are entrusting your members with a great task and this will inspire them to rise up and meet the challenge. It helps the team feel they have a stake in the project especially when their ideas are incorporated.
4. An Evaluation Tool
As your project gets underway, there will always be times when deadlines will be missed or other issues will arise. A vision that has been communicated can serve as an important tool to evaluate whether you are on the right track or not. It can help all members to look deep within to ascertain whether they are giving all to the agreed vision.
There is no denying that a workable vision underpins any successful project. As a good leader it is your role to communicate this vision to the team. To achieve this make sure you get feedback on your vision, develop and communicate every detail of the vision, help the team own your vision and finally make sure the process is collaborative. If there are modifications to be done be bold to do it but always make sure you communicate.
Image: Andy Hay