See It Clearly

A leader is first and foremost somebody with followers. If nobody is following, you are not leading, no matter what outstanding leadership qualities you might possess. Many years ago, my daughter Anna, had a sign on her bike that read. “Lead, follow, or get out of my way,” and the way she rode that bike, I believe she meant it. I think people are more than willing to follow someone who knows where he or she is going.

So the first questions to answer are: What is my vision? Where am I headed? Is it clear to me? Does it excite me, energize me? A son asked his father. “Daddy, when we got to where we’re going where will we be?” I am afraid that many present-day leaders can’t answer that question, They are certainly busy, certainly getting a lot done. It is very easy to be working hard at delegating, managing and being efficient but not heading toward a clear destination. Managers do things right, but leaders do the right things. And it is probably true, as some have concluded, that in all too many situations, we are over-managed, but under-led. Where are the leaders today who have a clear vision bursting inside of them? There was a pastor who remarked “Everywhere Paul went there was a revival or a riot: everywhere I go they serve tea.” What is often missing is clearness of vision.

Say It Convincingly

Once the leader knows exactly where he is headed, the next essential is to be able to communicate it convincingly to those whom he would like to have along on the journey. There are a variety of ways this can be done; but it must be done, or he will be making the trip by himself. Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple computers was trying very hard, but with little success, to recruit John Sculley to the vision that he clearly saw. Jobs was exasperated, and in his frustration he asked one more question, the one that finally caused John Sculley to make one of the most talked about corporate moves in modern American business. He asked, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley said it was as if someone reached up and delivered a stiff blow to his stomach.

The question simply eroded all his resistance and it made him think like a dreamer or a visionary. He subsequently left Pepsi Cola and joined Apple “After all,” Sculley mused, “changing the world is a heady thought.” In a few words Jobs had said it convincingly. He had conveyed his vision, the essence of his dream in words that Sculley understood; to have a part in changing the world. In order to recruit and keep motivated followers, a vision must be convincingly and constantly communicated in a myriad of ways. One of the key roles of the effective leader is to manage the dream of the organization, and to keep that dream alive through verbalization, symbols, and visuals.

Show It Consistently

Once you have your vision clearly in your mind and heart, and you are communicating it convincingly to your followers so that they understand what you see, the final step is to walk your talk. If you don’t demonstrate that you think it’s important by modeling it in your life, why should the people you lead think it’s important? It’s a matter of putting flesh on your vision. Here is where integrity of life comes in. By God’s grace, I need to practice what I preach; walk and talk, so I don’t have to tell people what my mother used to say to me, “Don’t do as I do, but do as I say.” Let’s face it, folks, talking it but not walking it won’t work over the long haul. People who follow us will do as we do, not as we say.

And when they get tired of doing what we are not doing, we will be walking alone! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:17, “Timothy will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” That’s it, being a living epistle of your dream. To hear it from my lips is one thing, but to see it in my life is quite another. Successful leaders consistently model their vision, realizing that more is caught than taught. When John Wesley was asked why people seemed to be drawn to him, he answered, “Well, you see, when you set yourself on fire, people just love to come and watch you burn.” Let your life burn in living color with your dream. It is a careful blending of communicating it with my lips, and living it with my life. What is a leader? He is a person who clearly sees the vision, communicates that vision convincingly, and models it consistently through his life.