Prevailing Vision: The Compass, The Rudder & The Sail

If you ever wonder about the power of vision, try this experiment: Take a young mother, chosen randomly in Central Florida and tell her you have all of her possessions, her credit cards, phone, money, keys, car, everything. Then explain that her little 5-year-old daughter is in Los Angeles and in a matter of hours she will be turned out onto the street. At this point it may be a good idea to explain this is a hypothetical experiment; some mothers have concealed weapons permits.

Then pose this question – “If you are not in LA within 24 hours you will never see your daughter again – will you be there?” The answer every time is “Absolutely YES!” Then ask “How?” The usual answer is “I don’t know, but I will figure it out.”

This is the power of “why” which is always greater than the “how.” Vision is aboutwhy; when vision is clear, when it is believed, it elevates the soul and opens the world to possibilities.

As we enter a decade of hyper-change, visionary leadership has never been more critical. Vision is the constant that provides hope and without hope we wither, like a plant without sun or water. Solomon said, “Without a vision people perish.” Another translation is “people are unrestrained,” or “they are pulled in many directions.” Why? Because they are aimless and are looking for a vision that provides clarity and purpose.

A Tale of Two Visions

One could argue that this region was built on two visions. One was articulated by a young president in 1961. It was to land a man on the moon and safely return him. That was a credible vision, but to say we would do it by the end of the decade was the very definition of audacity. That same month, the U.S. had just put our first astronaut into space, not even into orbit!

John F. Kennedy didn’t know how it was going to be done, but the vision became the impetus for one of the greatest achievements in history. The activity at the Space Center helped launch UCF and FIT, while facilitating the growth of the other aerospace companies that make this region so vibrant.

It is amazing how one vision always spawns a host of others. Consider how many visions have been realized because of the creativity and courage of our other founding visionary.

He was the man Andy Warhol called the greatest artist of the 20th Century, Walt Disney. But Walt was, of course, more than just the creative genius behind animation, he also is credited with inventing the theme park and is the one famous for saying, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Making the Dream Come True

In Jim Collins classic book “Good to Great,” one of the concepts he says is characteristic of great leaders, great companies and great institutions is to set a BHAG. That stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”

Vision is a BHAG on steroids. It needs to be bigger than the sum total of the people initially involved. That is the only way to inspire them to new heights. Vision will challenge people’s abilities and imaginations, just like the woman whose child is on the other side of the continent or the engineers and scientist that enabled man to walk on the moon.

Often the key to all vision is leadership. Leaders motivate people, inspiring and instilling courage and sacrifice in them to achieve the impossible.

History and experience teach us over and over again that people follow leaders and work for managers. An examination of how a leader responds and behaves sheds light on the difference between managers and leaders.

Frequently, one of the mistakes made in organizations is to place managers in leadership roles.  They are so effective at managing people that it begins to look like leadership. Eventually, when the vision is achieved, there is no new place to go. This certainly happened with our space program and it has taken almost a half-century for a new generation of space visionaries to chart a fresh course.

Vision is the compass that provides us with direction and it is the rudder that keeps us on course.  Also, vision is the sail that once we position correctly can catch the wind of trends and opportunity.