As a leader, it is important to create an inspiring vision for the future. Doing so encourages others to follow you; join your organization; and become the people you see that they can become. In order to develop an effective and inspiring vision for the future, you must start with a personal leadership point of view. Your personal leadership point of view establishes the key events in your life that shaped you, those things you value and why, and expectations you have for your personal growth and the professional growth of the organization.
Simon Sinek believes all leaders should understand the why of their organization before determining what and how. “Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it.” (Sinek et al, 2017). One has to understand why one does what one does before they determine what comes next and how to achieve that goal.
A person’s why comes from a combination of his or her values, desires in life, skills, and experiences. Many high school graduates struggle with what they want to do in life because they do not understand these things. Their values are not fully formed. They really do not know what they want from life. They are still developing their skills. They have few experiences to shape them as people. As a result, many choose to take time away from education to gain experience, understand what things interest them, what skills they possess or wish to gain, and how different values affect their choices.
Effective leaders have experienced life. They have been challenged in ways that test their mettle. They stand out from the crowd based on their experiences and the character developed in the forge of life. As you begin to examine your leadership point of view, take time to reflect on those experiences in your life that brought you great meaning. Those stories are not necessary your greatest achievements or defeats. The stories of everyday life are probably more important than those from the extremes. Those are the stories that establish your character and demonstrate things of interest and problems solved through your unique skills. Use these stories to learn what you really value. Remember, your values are the foundation of your leadership (St. Cyr, 2018).
How you live your values establishes your character. You might say you value family, but if you always put work first, do you really value your family life? A long time friend often challenged me when I stated how important I felt exercise was. He would invite me to workout with him and I frequently had an excuse to not workout with him. “You can always tell what is important to someone based on the way they use their time.” he would say, or something like that. He would follow up with something like, “If working out was really important, you would find a way.” He would also pull the same lines when he invited me to go fishing and I had other plans! People know your values from the way you live whether or not you profess them publicly. However, professing your values, and your organization’s values are important communication points for all leaders.
Each of us has meaningful experiences in life. Ask me anytime how I am and you will likely receive a positive response, even on a day I spill my morning coffee, the car will not start, and my computer crashes. I will likely tell you it is a great, or at least a good day. Based on the life experience of being shot at and being blown up, I decided any day you can get vertical and someone is not trying to kill you is a good day. That does not mean I ignore problems that come along in life. I just put them in perspective; it sucks, but no one is shooting at me so it is not THAT bad!
When I joined the Army, my Godmother told me not to let the Army change me. I promised I would not. At the time, I lacked the experience necessary to know that my Army experiences would change me but that it was my choice about whether I allowed those experiences to make be a better or worse person. No matter what, life experiences change all of us. In my case, I like to think my Army experiences made me a better person and a good leader. Our life experiences mold us. They cause us to reexamine our values. They help us decide what we really want from life. That is why those experiences are so important to our leadership point of view.
Face it, we all had bad bosses and good bosses. Some of us have even had the opportunity to work for great bosses. Each affected how we view leadership. As my children grew, I told them it was important for them to learn how to be good parents by not doing the bad things they experienced from their mother and I as parents. Many a protege has received similar advise from me as they moved on to new leadership opportunities, “Don’t do the things you hated me doing as your boss and leader.” Those who paid attention went on to accomplish some pretty good things. Those who did not, did not last long in their new leadership roles. Every experience is important in shaping us, but only if we take time to reflect on the meaning of each experience.
Our expectations are based on what we learn as being truly possible. The United States first landed men on the moon because we believed it was possible. President Kennedy stated in his inspirational speech that it would be a hard task and that was exactly why he challenged the country to do it before the end of the 1960s. Norman Vincent Peale challenge all of us to, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you still land among the stars.” (I think I remember reading this quote in his book The Power of Positive Thinking which I no longer possess to verify.) We only grow as people by accepting challenges that push us to be better than we are now. We only grow as leaders by inspiring our followers to achieve more than they believe they can accomplish. People more often than not will live up to the expectations we set for them. They will accomplish amazing things if we tell them convincingly they can.
Developing a personal leadership point of view helps leaders create inspirational visions for the future. A leader’s vision inspires others to follow them. As more people adopt your vision and work to achieve more than they thought possible, they grow as people and the organization becomes better. To create a leadership point of view, one needs to identify important events in their lives that shaped them, understand what they value, and know what their expectations are of their followers and the future of their organization. Only when all three of these legs are in place can a leader create a truly inspirational vision for others. Take time to reflect on those experiences that shaped you. Understand how they influenced your values. Know how your values create your expectations.
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Peale, N.V. (1952). The power of positive thinking. Prentice Hall. Hoboken, NJ
St. Cyr, C. (2018, October 29). Character — The foundation of character [Web log post]. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://saintcyrtraining.com/2018/10/29/character-the-foundation-of-leadership
Sinek, S., Mead, D., and Docker, P. (2017). Find your why. Portfolio/Penguin. New York, NY
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(c) 2021 by Christopher St. Cyr