“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.” - Fr. Theodore Hesburgh
When executives engage in leadership development training, they aren't just cultivating the proper technical skills to help launch their organizations to success. Leaders also need to be highly skilled when it comes to inspiring teams, not just directing them.
Inspiring a Great Team
For author Simon Sinek, there is a significant divide between leaders and people who lead. In one of the most popular TED talks to date, Sinek explained that while the latter group expends more energy thinking about results and how a company's products can help it realize its goals, leaders are more focused on engaging their employees and clients with a compelling vision.
Apple: An Excellent Example
For instance, Sinek pointed out that Apple serves as an excellent example of this critical difference at work. The technology company sells electronics like many other businesses, yet Apple products have risen to the top of the industry. Adopters of these technologies also tend to be highly loyal to the brand and passionate about their devices, and this enthusiasm is something many enterprises struggle to capture. Sinek believes what sets Apple apart and has enabled its success is that the company stands for an idea, not a product. When people buy iPhones, iPads, Macs, or Apple Watches, they purchase the cutting-edge concept rather than simply a gadget. When firms are acutely aware of their values and those values are infused into all aspects of the business, consumers will become inspired.
Additionally, Sinek believes this sense of purpose should be clear to employees as well as customers. "If you hire people just because they can do a job, they'll work for your money," Sinek said. "But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they'll work for you with blood and sweat and tears."
Start With Why
One of the most important things successful leaders do is inspire others with a shared vision. When leaders can communicate the "why" behind what a company does and what that means for employees, staff members are more likely to perform at higher levels. If professionals feel as if they're part of a meaningful mission that aligns with their own interests, they will work harder and more effectively.
Two Tips for Communicating Your Vision
1. Use concrete imagery, not abstract concepts. Describe what your vision looks like and how it manifests itself. Using imagery paints the picture of a strong, worthwhile vision. For example, the clothing company Patagonia’s vision is: “A love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.”
2. Be concise. When articulating the values that drive your vision, choose only a few. Be short and sweet. If employees are lost or confused, they won’t get on board. An interesting perspective to consider is that the more values you identify, the more you sound like everybody else. It’s critical to be confident in what your organization stands for and what you want your employees and customers to know about you. For example, consider TED’s vision: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”
Crafting a compelling vision that can be used to influence others is a key part of leadership development. This way, leaders can build passion and loyalty among both customers and employees. Articulate and communicate your vision in a clear, concise, and bold way using concrete imagery over abstracts.