Former GE CEO and Chairman Jack Welch once said: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
Sadly, many businesses have a vision that’s simply a bunch of words while others haven’t even bothered to create one. A company without a vision can be a bit like a boat without a rudder – without it, there’s no clear focus, there is no common purpose and there's a distinct lack of direction.
Lewis Gordon Pugh - a world-renowned athlete and global environmentalist - talks a lot about the importance of vision, at work and in one’s personal life. In his book “Achieving the Impossible” he relays a story about a prestigious law form that he worked for in London that lacked vision. “Never once did the senior partner come to us and say: “This is my vision. This is where I want to take the firm. And this is what I’d like you to do to help us get there.” ”In contrast, Pugh comments on his time in the British Special Air Services (SAS) where the organisation’s vision was blatantly clear and undisputable, with buy-in required from every member regarding their role, their purpose and their required contribution towards the overall mission.
MBA graduates who embrace the concept of visionary leadership should consider the importance of their own vision and values and those of the organisations they work for. Ideally, these should be aligned and compatible in order for them to be real and meaningful. Individuals who live out their vision and values with confidence in both their professional and personal lives are likely to enjoy a competitive advantage over those who either have none or are unclear about what these may be.
A company’s vision, values and mission statements should be a true reflection of the organisation's purpose, leadership and integrity. From a top-down perspective each manager, division and team should invest time and thought into formulating their own vision for future growth and development. Each business area needs a true visionary leader to communicate, develop and grow the vision with passion and commitment.
Although a corporate vision statement should reflect an organisation’s future aspirations, it’s not a business strategy. It’s also not a marketing strategy or a branding one, although it should inspire and drive these. It’s also a lot more than just having powerful and well-written words framed in the reception area.
If you’re needing to create or develop a mission or vision statement for your business or for your life, look to some leading brands for inspiration to create something that’s realistic, clear, true and aspirational:
Amazon’s vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Coca-Cola’s mission is to refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness and to create value and make a difference.
Dell’s mission is to be the most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve.
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Microsoft’s mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.
MTN’s vision is to be the leader in telecommunications in emerging markets.
Pick ‘n Pay’s mission: We serve. With our hearts we create a great place to be. With our minds we create an excellent place to shop.
SABMiller’s vision is to be the most admired company in South Africa; a partner of choice, an investment of choice and an employer of choice.
Virgin-Atlantic’s mission is to grow a profitable airline, where people love to fly and where people love to work.
YouTube’s mission is to provide fast and easy video access and the ability to share videos frequently.
Visionary leaders need to be imaginative and bold strategic thinkers. In formulating or developing a vision or mission statement in a business, the vision needs to challenge people to be the best. It also needs to unite people through a shared sense of purpose.
Visionary leaders are often change agents, steering their teams and their organisations in a new direction if necessary, despite the difficulties they will face when forcing people out of their comfort zones and into new, uncharted territory. For this reason, vision and mission statements need to be dynamic, changing over time.
Whatever position you aspire to hold in business, to be an effective team leader it’s important for you to create a vision for your team, to own it and to drive it relentlessly.
Does everyone in your team know what the vision is, are they clear about their role and responsibility in living the vision and are they committed to achieving it?