Very often, when observing leaders, you will find a common trait shared by them.  They don’t sit still very well.  By that I mean they always seem to be working on something.  This is because they don’t easily accept the norm.  It sometimes seems the status quo has somehow claimed the life of a few too many dreams.  Leaders just can’t accept it.  Like a swan in the winter, with a built-in ‘fly north’ compass, a leader will always fly towards change. 

Leaders see a different future, they see possibilities, potential being fulfilled, resources utilised, doors opening, impossible happenings.  Where some people see brick walls, they see ladders, ropes, and leg ups and more importantly the wide-open space on the other side.

Ok, hopefully you know where I’m coming from, but let’s put something a bit more solid in the foundations.  Let’s look at defining vision, Andy Stanley has said this; 

“Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fuelled by a passion that it should be.”

       Andy Stanley

I think that’s a really great definition.  Vision isn’t just a passion, it’s not just a belief.  It’s also not quite reality yet, it is something in the future.  It is something that we can describe and importantly it’s something we can describe to others.

I sometimes think it helps to talk about vision in the context of other factors.  We can get it confused with purpose, but purpose is the reason why we exist.  We can get it confused with values, but values define what matters most.  Vision is very closely linked but is different to mission, which defines how we’re going to get there.  “Where are we going?” you might ask.  Good question.  Well, that will reveal the vision.  Where are we going?  What is it like there?  Who will we become on this journey?  What will be different? 

Vision is the picture of where we are going, passion fuels the desire to get there.  A leader’s primary job when casting vision is to describe the picture.  Help people see it in their mind’s eye.  When you can help them see it, you’ll also be able to instil your passion to achieve it.

Another quote by John Maxwell, helps again, to identify other factors of an organisation to understand more about the role and the function of vision;

Personnel determines the potential of the team. 

Vision determines the direction of the team. 

Work ethic determines the preparation of the team. 

Leadership determines the success of the team. 

       John Maxwell

This helps to think through vision in the context of the group, with all its moving parts and to help thinking through its value of becoming reality.  When you are considering vision, the personnel and their work ethic will help you to set a realistic vision, with realistic goals.  To combine Stanley and Maxwell’s thoughts, vision is a picture of the future, but more specifically, a picture of an achievable future.

The following pyramid is a useful tool we often use with teams to walk through important foundations of youth provision.  This will be good for leaders to use but is also helpful for a team to discuss.  Try starting at the base, jotting down key words of each level, as they relate to your organisation.  Again, the function of vision will become clearer as you assess the other parts.

Read about How to Make Vision Stick

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