Leadership, Part 4: The Second of the 7 Cs: Compelling Vision

The second of the seven Cs is similar to the first (Crisis), in that much depends on the follower believing the leader’s assessment of a situation. But of course it differs in that the air of urgency born of a Crisis is lacking.

The Compelling Vision (or another C, Cause) is the leader giving the promise, or the hope (to quote an enormously popular poster from the 2008 U.S. Presidential election) of a better future for those willing to follow into a promised land of sorts. Following this leader will fulfill a particular destiny for both leader and follower, and (by extension) to choose not to follow is to forfeit the opportunities to be had when the promised land is reached.

Like a Crisis, the picture of a Compelling Vision can be a pure falsehood. A Vision can be as manufactured as a Crisis. In the allusion to religious cult figures (none of whom were named) in the last post, not all had to concoct a Crisis to attract followers. Many could achieve the same result simply by projecting a Vision perceived to be uniquely theirs.

The degree of attraction of the Vision will also be affected by the degree of present (real or perceived) misery on the part of the targeted followers. And what may be omitted in the presentation of the Compelling Vision is that the bright future this leader alleges to be pointing the followers toward will be obtained at the expense of others.

All effective leaders must project some sort of Vision that suggests the state of the followers will be improved by following the leader. If the leader projects an aura of “I don’t know where we’re going until we get there,” he will soon turn around to find no one following. But an over-emphasis on a future Vision, that does not address the current reality (Crisis or not) and does not include a plan to travel from present-state to future-state, is a sign that something (often the leader’s mental state) is out of balance. Remembering that a strong leader does not necessarily correlate to a decent human being, someone over-emphasizing the Vision is not telling you something you should know.

A Compelling Vision as a leader’s carrot will have greater staying power than a Crisis. But the leader using a Vision to establish a followership can be undone in two ways: when it becomes clear the Vision cannot be reached (obviously), or when the Vision is achieved. If we achieve Nirvana, what next? The logical answer: I don’t know, but we no longer need the leader!

In our next post, we look at the Third C: Consensus Building


About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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