Leadership, vision, communication, and confusion - Executips


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Leadership, vision, communication, and confusion

Photo by George Amar Moreño

In The Balance website, Susan Heathfield compiled these quotes:

“ The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.”

-       Theodore Hesburgh, President , University of Notre Dame

“ There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing. “

-       James Kousez and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge

“ Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

-Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

As we can see, “articulation” is the second most important thing to “vision.” But the articulation is where many leaders and companies fail.

In some cases, the writing is uninspired or full of jargon.

In the Blinkist summary of Words That Work by Dr. Frank Luntz , presidential candidate John Kerry was cited as an example of a person who spoke in a complicated manner. “For example, he spoke of his preference for a “progressive internationalism” over the “too belligerent” and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration. “  The voters didn’t have a clue of what he was talking about.

In contrast, Martin Luther King, Jr. was very clear and so moving when he said “ we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing…”

Experts suggest that vision statements should be clear enough to be understood and embraced by the lowest ranking employee. And they must know what specific thing they can do to contribute.

In many companies, the vision and mission statements are enshrined on the wall but are never discussed in the operations. Where I work, we have the good habit of summarizing every meeting against a checklist of our vision, mission and values.

According to the quotes above, the leader is the best person to champion the vision. Problem begins when the leader is not consistent with his messages. Many leaders use ambiguity, doublespeak, or euphemisms for latitude.  These give them allowance to later “clarify” their neither-here-nor-there position.

It results in confusion.  Which may lead to loss of trust. In laboratory experiments, it was shown that the unpredictability of things can result in “learned helplessness.”

Then there’s the “Law of the Picture” from leadership guru John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

It says that “people do what people see.” Maxwell advises that “When leaders show the way with the right actions, their followers copy them and succeed. “ Actions are eloquent. So, a leader cannot effectively communicate the importance of integrity if he has known cheaters and slackers in his inner circle.

When I was temporary head of an ad agency, our HR consultant taught me that the main duty of the leader is to give the command “Let’s march ! “

We better know where we are really going.

“ The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it
has taken place. “

                      - George Bernard Shaw

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