Where does vision come from? How does a leader develop a clear vision for the future?
At the earliest stages, the word “vision” may be somewhat misleading, portraying vision as a picture that we can see. The birthplace of vision isn’t the mind’s eye, but the heart. In the beginning, visionaries are guided by passion not sight. They must feel their way in the dark at first, and only through time do they gain a mental image of what the future could look like.
Vision is what you want to do in life, not only what you think should be done. I can think of a thousand noble causes, but only a select few resonate with my heart. Vision begins as a compelling want or desire. The genesis of vision isn’t purely an intellectual exercise; it involves monitoring your passions.
Passion generates vision, but I certainly do not recommend blindly following your heart. When developing a vision it’s necessary to realistically assess your strengths, skills, and available opportunities. For example, I may aspire to sing on Broadway, but if the sounds of my voice makes an audience cover their ears in pain, then it’s time to focus on another area of passion. Desire alone surely is not sufficient to develop a vision. Yet, every vision starts with an emotional spark.
Passion Births Vision
Ability is not enough to enable us to reach our potential. Opportunity alone will never get us to the top. Knowledge is a great asset, but comes up short helping us “be all that we can be.” Even putting together a good team is not sufficient. Passion is the difference-maker.
In my years of observing people, I have never seen an individual reach his potential without passion. Horst Schultze, former COO of the Ritz Carlton says:
You are nothing unless it comes from your heart. Passion, caring, really looking to create excellence. If you perform functions only and go to work only to do processes, then you are effectively retired. And it scares me – most people I see, by age 28, are retired… If you go to work only to fulfill the processes and functions then you are a machine. You have to bring passion, commitment and caring – then you are a human being.
Without passion we stop dreaming and settle for survival. We relinquish heartfelt vision in exchange for security and comfort.
One team of researchers followed a group of 1,500 MBA’s over a period of 20 years. At the outset of the study, the participants were divided into two groups, Group A and Group B.
Group A, 83 percent of the sample, was composed of people who were embarking on a career path that they had chosen solely for the prospect of making money now in order to do what they wanted later in life.
Group B, the other 17 percent of the sample, consisted of people who had chosen their career paths so that they could do what they wanted to do now and worry about the money later.
The data showed some startling revelations:
• At the end of the 20-year period, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaires.
• Of the millionaires, all but one – 100 out of 101 – were from Group B, the group that had chosen to pursue what they loved.
In summarizing the research for his book Getting Rich Your Own Way, Srully Blotnick observed the following: “A missing ingredient had to be present if someone was going to become rich: they had to find their work absorbing. Involving. Enthralling.” The success stories choose passion over predictable earnings. They had a vision for life beyond material riches, and ironically, they ended up generating the most wealth.
To birth a vision, begin by paying attention to your areas of passion. What makes you feel alive? What matters the most to you in life? What activities can absorb attention for hours? Don’t worry about being able to see the whole picture immediately. As you look for ways to make contributions doing what you love, eventually a picture will emerge in your mind of how you can shape the future.
John C. Maxwell is an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 19 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. Each year he speaks to the leaders of diverse organizations, such as Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, the National Football League, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. His blog can be read at JohnMaxwellOnLeadership.com. He can be followed at Twitter.com/JohnCMaxwell.