Thursday, June 27, 2013

Vision Is the Key Element of Leadership

During this week’s blog, I will be discussing the role of vision as an element of leadership. I will use a few leaders from the past to explain why vision is the key element that separates leaders from the rest of the human population. Leaders have visions that allow some form of change to occur throughout the world. Leaders look beyond the present and into the future. Leaders do not sit and wait for things to happen as is; they lead, take action, and make things happen guided by their own vision of what would make things better. There are several types of leaders in the world. There are spiritual leaders, political leaders, business leaders, educational leaders, etc.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) was a political leader. He won his first political office in 1946. He saw a vision of a nation that would give their citizens higher wages, more housing, lower prices, and social security. He fought for the civil rights movement by forcing people to come together, and he convinced people that the way to live is to be equal with one another. He, much like Martin Luther King Jr., saw that the people of the United States could overcome racial discrimination and bigotry. JFK also fought against the threat of communism in Berlin and Cuba. He helped change America to what it is today. People followed JFK’s vision, because many people believed in his vision of a different America. Also, people trusted and looked up to him. (Williams, 2012) He also dreamed of putting a man on the moon. (Ryan, 2009) If JFK had not envisioned our nation going to the moon, then another country would have done it first.
JFK had the same vision as Frederick Douglass.  Frederick Douglass saw a vision of himself. He saw himself as a free black man in the nineteenth century. He also saw a vision of a nation without slavery. He spent much of his early life getting as much education as he could. The education he received helped him escape his owners in 1838. When he came back to America from Great Britain, he started publishing in a newspaper. He wrote articles that protested against slavery. Frederick Douglass spent much of his life giving speeches and writing publications to try and motivate people to end slavery. (McGill, 2005) If Frederick Douglass had not had a vision, he might have died a slave. Instead, he saw something different, and he fought for it. That is what makes leaders different from ordinary people. They see something bigger and better, and they go for it. Sometimes they have to break the rules in order to achieve their goals, but they do it anyway.  Frederick Douglass broke the rules when he escaped from his master; however, he was willing to die for his vision.

Mother Teresa was a spiritual leader and humanitarian. She was a strong advocate for people who were sick and dying. She saw a vision of a world with people who took care of each other. She was also an educational leader. She was involved in educating young girls all over the world. She taught both geography and history at Saint Mary’s High School until she got sick with tuberculosis. She spent the rest of her life taking care of India’s poor children and opening up schools, free clinics, and orphanages in twenty-five countries. She was a visionary. She did a lot of great things for a lot of people, because she had a heart and the vision to help people.  She won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Medal of Freedom. Her vision was simple: by helping others, the world will be a better place. Nuns and others followed her, because they wanted to be like her. They admired her. She inspired people to take care of the dying, sick, and poor people. A lot of people would not have been helped if it was not for Mother Teresa’s vision. (Stevenson, 2005)
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most important women of the 20th century. (Burke, 1984) She was a strong political activist that fought for democracy, equality, and freedom. She envisioned a future of equal rights. (Ryan, 2009) She delivered speeches that supported women’s rights. She was an excellent communicator, and people followed and supported her vision. Even though some critics disagreed with her vision, she continued to fight for what she believed in. (Burke, 1984) Today, women have the same rights as men. Women can vote, hold down jobs, and be independent if that is what they wish.

What do all of these leaders have in common? What makes people support them or follow them? These leaders had a vision. Their vision is what led them to influence people to help them achieve their goals. John Ryan states there are three fundamentals of effective leadership: 1. They are driven by a vision. 2. They are excellent at communicating to public concerning their cause or vision. 3. They use superior judgment. (Ryan, 2009) All of these leaders were driven by a vision, are excellent at communicating, and had bigger dreams. Ryan states, “Leadership success always starts with vision. Henry Ford dreamed of a car families could afford. Steve Jobs dreamed of an easy-to-use computer that would unleash creativity. Nelson Mandela dreamed of an integrated, prosperous South Africa. (2009)” All of these people started out with a vision. Then they were able to get people on board with their ideas. James Kouzes  and Barry Posner states, “ the only visions that take hold are shared visions – and you will create them only when you listen very, very closely to others, appreciate their hopes, and attend to their needs.” Mr. Kouzes and Mr. Posner are suggesting that leaders have to encourage people to care about their visions. Then the leaders have to listen to the feedback from the public and assist them in their needs. However, it all starts with a vision. My questions to my readers are: What is your vision? Do you have a vision? What good is your vision if you do not share it with others?

References:
Burke, F. 1984. Eleanor Roosevelt, October 11, 1884-November 7, 1962--She Made a
Difference. Public Administration Review, 44(5), 365-372.
http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.troy.edu/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=1e871492-fe6b-4b37acaaf1be315b377c%40sessionmgr10&hid=8&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=4593437

Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. 2009. To lead, create a shared vision. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2009/01/to-lead-create-a-shared-vision/ar/1

McGill, S. 2005. Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, 1-2.
http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.troy.edu/ehost/detail?vid=13&sid=b87ada15-bc23-45799d6de0254640a17d%40sessionmgr11&hid=110&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=khh&AN=17884755

Stevenson, K. 2005. Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, 1-2.
http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.troy.edu/ehost/detail?vid=15&sid=b87ada15-bc23-
45799d6de0254640a17d%40sessionmgr11&hid=110&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=khh&AN=18053290

William, M. 2012. Kennedy, John F. Britannica Biographies, 1.
http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.troy.edu/ehost/detail?vid=17&sid=b87ada15-bc23-45799d6de0254640a17d%40sessionmgr11&hid=110&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=khh&AN=32414788

Ryan, John. 2009. Leadership success always starts with vision. Forbes. Retrieved from
http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/29/personal-success-vision-leadership-managing-ccl.html

Ryan, John. 2009. The three fundamentals of effective leadership. Forbes. Retrieved from
http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/29/vision-communication-judgment-leadership-managing-
ccl.html