One of the five practices of an exemplary leader is to inspire a shared vision. A great definition of vision is: An ideal, unique image of the future for the common good.
When talking to leaders, they often get mission and vision confused. Let me help explain the difference.
Mission is what we do today. What is our business that we do today? It is really for the outside world to see– a lot of people put their mission on their website. Mission is more of an external message. Vision, on the other hand, is looking forward. Where is this company going in the next two to ten years? Many people use this for an internal focus.
To summarize, mission is today, vision is the future; mission is external, vision is internal.
When I talk to leaders and ask them if they are really leading through vision, they seem confused. Some think they do, some are not so sure. I have four self-reflective questions you can ask yourself to do a gut-check to see if you really are leading with any kind of vision:
First, do you talk about, on an active basis, the future trends that will affect the work you will be doing into the future?
Secondly, do you describe a compelling image of what the collective future looks like? The collective future part is very important because your constituents need to know what’s in it for them (I.e. The Common Good).
Third, do you paint the big picture of what you are aspiring to accomplish?
Lastly, do you speak with genuine conviction about the higher meaning of your work? I know many of you think there is no higher meaning, but there is higher meaning to everything that you do. When you speak with genuine conviction, it brings in that common good aspect.
Ask yourself the above stated questions and it will help you determine if you are leading with vision.