Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace…they replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding’ So they began this good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17,18)

Continuing with our devotional series on Leadership Attributes this Monday, we look at the Leader as vision caster.  Vision is a huge area of interest in leadership studies.  In one online business journal alone, a search for ‘leadership vision’ returns over 7500 hits!  I would like to focus upon one crucial aspect of vision casting which most leaders miss.  The ability to cast vision that is not only compelling to themselves but also resonates with the aspirations of those they lead.  In short, a shared vision.

This concept was articulated succinctly in an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“So how do new leaders develop [vision]? First, of course, they must resolve to carve out time from urgent but endless operational matters. But even more important, as leaders spend more time looking ahead, they must not put too much stock in their own prescience. This point needs to be underscored because, somehow, through all the talk over the years about the importance of vision, many leaders have reached the unfortunate conclusion that they as individuals must be visionaries. With leadership development experts urging them along, they’ve taken to posing as emissaries from the future, delivering the news of how their markets and organizations will be transformed.

Bad idea! This is not what constituents want. Yes, leaders must ask, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s better?”—but they can’t present answers that are only theirs. Constituents want visions of the future that reflect their own aspirations. They want to hear how their dreams will come true and their hopes will be fulfilled. We draw this conclusion from our most recent analysis of nearly one million responses to our leadership assessment, “The Leadership Practices Inventory.” The data tell us that what leaders struggle with most is communicating an image of the future that draws others in—that speaks to what others see and feel.”  (“To Lead, Create a Shared Vision” HBR – Jan 2009, Kouzes and Posner)

Kouzes and Posner emphasize this key aspect of the Leader’s Vision –  It must not only seem compelling to you, but it must capture the aspirations of those you lead as well.

Nehemiah understood this and it shows in how he articulated his compelling vision from God to travel to Jerusalem and fortify the Holy city that had fallen into disrepair.

In communicating his vision, he did not use language like, “God has called me to do this” or “I am on a mission won’t you join me?”  Rather, his language throughout the book is consistently the language of a shared vision.  He states, “You see the trouble we are in..”, “Let us rebuild the wall, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

Nehemiah states his vision in a way that ties into the aspirations of all Israel.  He does not describe a project that he would like to lead.  He paints the picture of a disgraceful problem that he knew all Israel would like to address.  Thus, the vision became a shared one and prompted a positive response.
As you think of the vision that you have for your company.  What parts of that vision do you think resonates most with the aspirations of your staff, your customers?  Is it reflected in the language that you use to motivate?

Shifting language to promote a shared vision is not easy.  But as you think through how to shift your own vision language, it is instructive to note that leaders throughout scripture utilized language that naturally led to buy-in from the people they were called upon by God to lead.


John Wiseman –  Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca
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