Characteristics of a great vision

A few weeks ago, I talked about the importance of developing a vision, and then of selling it.  At a leadership day I attended earlier in the year, David Stroud taught that it’s not enough just to have any old vision; you need a great vision. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean a big vision – not everyone is called to change the world, but I think everyone is called to live transformatively in their own world, even if your world seems small.  It can be hard, especially if everyone around you seems to have world-changing visions, to feel the assurance that your vision is worthwhile, but if it’s the vision God has put on your heart, it is definitely worthwhile!

A quick example.  An acquaintance of mine is a teacher. She wanted to make a difference at her school but, being fairly newly-qualified and hence junior in a large school, what could she really do?

She noticed in the staff room that everyone brought their own milk in for tea and coffee at break times.  This caused tension because it created issues with space in the fridge, with people using the ‘wrong’ milk, with others leaving milk in there till it curdled… So my friend decided that she would buy milk for everyone to share.

That was it. £3 or £4 a week was all it took to break the cycle of bitterness, resentment, argument and tension in the staff room. One person decided that losing a little personal money was worth it for the good of the group, and it worked!

She also started, quietly but firmly, resisting the culture of moaning, backbiting and negativity in the staffroom, and slowly but surely is having an impact in that way, too. 

Two simple things – milk and a smile – in one humble work place can make a huge difference.  And if the teachers’ have a more positive experience of their break times, it follows that they will be more rested, more positive and more able to deal with problems in the classroom, and better able to teach effectively and inspirationally.

So all that to say, don’t think a small vision is a worthless vision!

David set out some characteristics of a great vision that hold true whatever your situation and however humble your vision seems.  His focus was on your vision for yourself, but the points are just as valid for ‘a leader’s vision for his/her team’.  He said it should be:

~ Clear/well-defined – there’s no use saying ‘I’m going to change the world’, or even ‘I’m going to get rich’ be specific.

~ God-honouring – obviously!

~ Future oriented – Don’t just think about what you could do given your current circumstances/educational level/ resources, think ahead – what do I want to accomplish?  Who do I need to become (or to recruit) to do that?

~ Compelling – don’t develop a vision that doesn’t completely fire you up.

~ Reflective of your values – ask yourself ‘what matters to me?’ What do we as a company/team stand for?

~ Bigger than you think you can accomplish – if you dream small, you’ll reach small.  My friend didn’t buy milk in the hopes of de-cluttering the fridge, she bought it in order to create harmony, good working relationships and perhaps even friendships.  That seems bigger than one young teacher could manage, yet it began to happen surprisingly quickly.

David gave one more piece of advice for developing your vision, in the form of a quotation from author and civil rights leader Howard Thurman:

Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, then go and do that.  What the world needs is people who have come alive.
                                       Howard Thurman

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