For the next couple of weeks, we will explore the important characteristics of effective leadership. Leadership has two foundational rocks upon which it is built, skills, and character.
The character of leadership can be divided into three categories: purpose - oriented, people -oriented, and God- oriented. This week we will discuss ‘A leader must be a visionary person.’
First, we should ask the following questions to help us focus on this aspect of leadership. What should be the characteristics of a true leader? What characteristics should we seek to develop in a leader or potential leader? What should people say about us as a leader? What would we like people to see in us as a leader? What would we like to see developed in us? And, what should the country, organisation and people expect and hopefully see developed in our character as we work in a leadership position?
I wonder if our leaders have a vision for this country. What is this country going to be like in ten to twenty years’ time in terms of its infrastructure, health, education etc...?
It is sad to see for the last thirty six (36) years since independence there is very little done in these sectors. The reality is that instead of us progressing forward, we are slipping backward and life becomes hard for our people. Our problem is not that we don’t have the money; it is simply a lack of vision from our leaders.
The absence or ineffectiveness of leadership implies the absence of vision, a dreamless society, and this will result, at best, in the maintenance of the status quo or, at worst, in the disintegration of our society because of lack of purpose and cohesion.
To lose the vision is to bow down or even to retreat from the front line of action. The sense of direction is lost. The energy runs out. Optimism turns to pessimism and the leaders cease to inspire their followers to high levels of achievement. The peril is to lose this critical dimension of leadership.
A leader must be a visionary person. He/she must be able to visualise the need and the accomplishment of the goal and then be able to articulate those dreams or visions to his/her followers and see to it that they become reality.
Remember thought that vision without action is meaningless. Dreams and visions often sound rather remote from the harsh realities of life! “Dreamers” and “visionaries” conger up all sorts of mental images. Yet the proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” is true (Proverbs 29:18).
To choose a direction, a leader must first have developed a mental image of a possible and desirable future state of our country. This image, which we call a vision, may be as vague as a dream or as precise as a goal or mission statement. The critical point is that a vision articulates a view of a realistic, credible, attractive future for our country, a condition that is better in some important ways than what now exists.
Often there is a deep, inner dissatisfaction of the present circumstances and a much clearer understanding of what could be done to change those circumstances. Often the dissatisfaction is concerning the status quo and this develops into the quest for alternatives, the quest for a new vision.
My observation for the last forty years has been that all effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish. That vision becomes the energy behind every effort and the force that pushes through all the problems. With vision, the leader is on a mission and a contagious spirit is felt among the people until others begin to rise alongside the leader.
Unity is essential for the dream to be realised. Long hours of labour are given gladly to accomplish the goal. Individual rights are set aside because the whole is much more important than the personal. Time flies, morale soars upward, heroic stories are told, and commitment is the watchword.
Why? Because the leader has a vision! All that is necessary to remove the excitement from the preceding paragraph is one word vision! Without it, energy ebbs low, deadlines are missed, personal agendas begin to surface, production falls and people scatter.
Helen Keller was asked, “What would be worse than being born blind? She replied, “To have sight without vision”. Sadly, too many people are placed into leadership positions without a vision for our country. All great leaders possess two things: They know where they are going, and they are able to persuade others to follow.
Because effective leaders are visionaries, they are able to define a precisely and clearly articulated purpose, objective, and goal. They avoid aimlessness. The greatest thin in the world is not so much where we are… but in what direction we are moving.
They have the ability to explain clearly the direction of the course to be taken by their followers. The essential leadership act is to create visions that bring people together and give them a sense of common purpose.
Effective leaders have the ability to structure, outline, chart, and communicate the implementation of the vision precisely. They have the ability to recognise patterns and relationships among what seems to be disjointed events; they use common sense to fulfil the vision, and bring order out of the chaos that’s around them. At the same time they understand that every vision, by its very nature, will demand change. They will understand that some situations are more amendable to change than others.
Leaders are heading somewhere. They are never satisfied with yesterday’s performances. It can be better. Anything that is worthwhile ends in the future, although that future can be scary.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea