When you look at the math for calculating a vector, you either understand it or it looks like a secret code that’s impossible to decipher. What you may not recognize is that the vector is a great way to describe what leadership is. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a vector as this:
Vector: a quantity having direction as well as magnitude.
New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition © 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc.
When I was learning about vectors in middle and high school, it boiled down to direction and velocity. Without direction and velocity, a vector is nothing more than a point. This same idea applies to leaders. Without movement and direction, a leader is nothing more than a person standing still.
Leadership Requires Vision
Every person has their own unique blend of natural talents and learned skills. Some people are very organized people and thrive in structured environments where they can lead within an established structure. This is often referred to as management, but there are some necessary leadership qualities for a person to go beyond accomplishing tasks. Others may be more skilled in coming up with new ideas and methods for improving upon whatever it is that they are involved in. These people are often mislabeled as visionary leaders. Just because someone is great at coming up with new ideas does not mean that they can cast vision and influence people towards that vision.
To become a great leader, you must be able to move people from where they are towards the vision. Great leaders do not always have to come up with the vision, but they must be able to influence people in such a way that they accept and charge ahead towards the vision. Without vision, how can someone truly be leading?
I was recently tasked with developing a stage set for a three night Worship and Word event at my church. The creative team that I am a part of agreed upon a certain look and my job was to take it from an idea on paper to a reality on stage. During the initial stages of brainstorming the design, there were many different ideas. Each of the members of the creative team is a leader in their own regard, but none of the ideas really stood out. Finally, one member of the team cast the vision of his idea in such a way that we could all understand and get excited about.
As I worked on the actual design of the set, I had to keep in mind that I would need to cast the vision to everyone that would be helping to build and set up the design. When the day came to change the entire stage around, I had a plan for different teams to accomplish different aspects of the set. I showed them what we were doing and explained the vision behind the entire design. With 20 volunteers and 4 staff members all on the same page with the vision, we were able to do about a week’s worth of work in just 4 hours.
Without a strong vision in the planning stages, the design may not have been ready in time. If I did not get everyone involved to focus on the vision of the project, the stage would not have turned out as well as it did in the amount of time that it took.
Leadership Requires Action
Have you ever had a boss who was not involved with you or your job at all? Maybe he or she would give you a projects and just say “Get it done.” While some people may do well with this kind of “absentee” boss, most people would probably prefer that their bosses at least take an interest in their work. If you want to lead well and influence more people towards your vision, you have to be willing to take the lead. Casting a vision to a group of people and then leaving them to fend for themselves is not leadership.
If you dig into where the word leadership comes from, you will eventually find yourself deep in history, learning about how a shepherd leads his herd of sheep. Would it make sense for a shepherd to just point in a specific direction and tell the sheep to go there? Why would it then make sense for a leader to point towards a goal and do nothing but tell the people he leads to go accomplish it?
A great leader guides the people he or she leads with the vision. Vision is not a destination, but a grand picture that goes beyond goals and accomplishments. The vision of a shepherd is to keep his flock safe and healthy.
The vision for the stage designs we do at our church is to enhance environments where people can engage in worship and The Word. Sometimes it is a sermon illustration to help drive a point home, while other times our stage is nothing more than subtle motion videos and lighting effects. To make the vision happen, those of us in leadership roles must take action. Sometimes we are in the trenches building things, but we are usually coming along-side our volunteers to help them engage in the vision with us.
When you come along-side people to lead them with the vision, they stick around longer and are more likely to take pride in the things they are doing. Accomplishing tasks and goals without a connection to the vision is just work.