By R.A. Weigel
A leader’s vision should be a clear mental picture of what could be, should be, and by conviction, will be. A leader’s vision is the preferred future for an individual, team, or organization. It becomes an adopted, favored, or required destination for reasons that should be clear before the vision is communicated and implemented.
For any vision to become a reality, there has to be someone who is willing to stand in the gap, put their neck on the line, and accept the responsibility no matter what happens. Any vision of worth requires a great deal of courage from the leader, (you), to see it through.
As a leader, you must commit your vision to writing and then you must communicate that vision over and over even after it becomes part of the essential framework for your team or organization. It’s important that you keep your vision from becoming just another slogan, checked-off requirement, or a bookmark in the history of your work. How you frame, communicate, and implement your vision is a topic that needs some serious coaching and support, but that’s NOT the focus for this article. The focus for this article is Vision Stick – or – Overcoming the Threats To Your Vision.
A quality vision is first and foremost something that you must be praying for. That’s the most important part of keeping your vision alive and it’s highly doubtful you’ll hear that in a college leadership class. Yet, if you’re going to ignore the power of prayer relating to your vision, it means you’re not putting God first and without putting God first your vision will never have the spiritual support it needs. A great vision is an anchor in a safe harbor. It’s the constant in the stormy sea of indecision so if you’re not praying for your vision, you’ve got the wrong vision. Never let a day go by when you’re not asking the Lord to help you bring your vision to fruition – and ask others to pray for it with you.
Proverbs 16:3 (NLT) – Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.
You can call it vision creep, vision leak, or vision drift… it’s all the same. It happens when you haven’t put enough detail into your vision or you allow too many people to add, subtract, or alter your vision to the point where nobody really owns it. Vision creep is when your vision becomes blurry because it keeps changing and what you’re telling people about your preferred future is unclear. In reality, you should not allow a lot of people to modify your vision. When that happens, people lose sight of where your leadership is taking them.
Beware of vision creep and keep your vision alive by repeatedly affirming your detailed written and declared vision is attainable and it will help everyone in the organization to reach greater success. People need to know your vision is worth it to them.
Psalm 119:105 (ESV) – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
A quality vision isn’t something that every person in your organization is going to jump in and laud as something they’ve always wanted. Visions should always be about the future and no matter how much detail and communication you put behind your vision, there will always be somebody who can’t see it and will oppose it. They’re blind to your vision for any number of reasons. You must be aware of who is blind to your vision because that person is not going to sit idly by and allow your vision to become a reality.
This becomes even more an issue for you as a Christian leader. You cannot, (or should not), deny that some part of your vision is an outgrowth of the Holy Spirit’s working in you. You see things that are possible where the unbeliever only sees the obstacles. You see what God has promised whereas the unbelievers only see wishful thinking. Because of that, you need to reaffirm your vision with more detail than you initially thought was necessary.
Hebrews 2:1 (NIV) – We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
Everybody gets tired and distracted at different times. It’s normal and it’s human. There will be times when your team gets excited about your vision and then the “Sturm un Drang” of life takes its toll and suddenly your organization begins losing momentum and questions arise if your vision is worth it.
You’ve been doing the right things, making every effort, but somehow the things that need to be happening… aren’t happening. Vision fatigue also happens when your vision begins producing results but after the initial growth the pace subsides, and people begin to wonder if the vision really is as good as you said. In truth, every vision has a wilderness experience and vision fatigue happens during that period of time. That’s when you, as a leader, must get out of your comfort zone and spend quality time explaining your vision to individuals or small groups so they don’t lose heart. As a leader, you need to keep your vision in front of people and make it fresh.
Philippians 4:13 (NLT) – For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
A quality vision has a gravity that is heavier than the pull of the earth. It has a lot of weight, especially for the leader who is accountable. That weight comes from multiple factors, but the biggest factor is the people who have not yet committed to your vision. They tend to pull it down because they prefer living in a “what have you done for me lately” mindset. Your detractors might tell you to compromise, you’ve set your ideals too high, you’re not being practical, or you’re not thinking through how much work your vision is taking.
Hopefully, the people closest to you are committed to your vision. Tell them that you need their help because the gravity of your vision is beginning to weigh you down. Because a quality vision is not a quick fix to a problem but a movement toward something much better, you can’t always hold a vision all by yourself. You need others to help you carry the load and reduce the pull of gravity on your vision.
Galatians 6:2 (NLT) – Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Competing visions happen all the time. There are people who will fully buy-in your vision and there are others who only mildly acquiesce to it. Then there’s always someone who believes that their vision is better than yours. Wherever there are competing visions there is conflict and lack of movement toward your vision.
That person will want to modify your vision to fit more closely to what’s good for them. They play the role of the disruptor or instigator rather than taking the responsibility to write down their own vision and run it up the flagpole to see if anyone will salute it. Competing visions can look or sound similar to your vision but it’s just different enough to keep both visions from becoming a reality. That’s why it’s so important to write down your vision and repeat it often. Let others know that “this is the direction we’re heading” so if they truly can’t buy in or submit, it would be better if they were somewhere else.
Your ability to communicate your vision is often not as simple as you would like. Then too, it’s been stated that people remember roughly about 25% of what they hear. So as hard as you try, there will always be somebody who didn’t really hear what you said. That too is another reason to write down your vision and put it in front of others as often as possible.
No matter how well you think you’re communicating your vision, there will be some who simply cannot hear it from you. Moses needed Aaron as his “spokesperson” in order to say what needed to be said in the right way. That isn’t to say that there was something “wrong” with Moses, but truth be told, any quality vision will have a longer shelf life if there are other people who can help communicate it. A great vision requires continued communication and if you’re the one leading that vision, find some others who will help you communicate it.
Vision Versus Tradition
“But… we’ve always done it that way before.” There are some people who struggle to understand what the future may look like because they’re mired in the past. They relish what has taken place in the past and enjoy being the chroniclers of what has happened previously. Your vision is future-focused and for them, that means a movement away from tradition. Your vision becomes a threat to them.
People are, in general, creatures of habit. Habits are hard to break, and your vision may appear to be a threat. To break a habit a person has to begin by wanting to break that habit. If the way things have been done before is rewarding enough, then they will not see the need to break with tradition in order to implement your vision. As a visionary leader, you need to help others to see the personal benefits of moving beyond the past and embracing the future. Look for anyone who is very satisfied with the way things are and ask them to help you by chronicling the events of your vision’s movement from where you are today to where you’ll be tomorrow.
Matthew 15:3 (ESV) – He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
A quality vision requires change and change can instill fear in some people. The more out of the norm of your vision, the more fear will be associated with the change. Change brings about the potential for personal failure and without the right motivation, few people want to put their life, career, or way of life on the line for your vision.
Your leadership responsibility is to do everything possible to anticipate the fears that others may have relating to your vision and address those fears before they have an opportunity to grow roots. People will appreciate your vision much more if you’ve considered those factors that will affect their life, work, or way of doing things. Be clear on how you’re overcoming their fear and exude confidence that no matter what happens, you’ve got their back.
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Complacency is where an individual or group feels comfortable with their current situation to the degree that they’ve lost their motivation and willingness to accept new challenges. Complacency leads to doing what’s always been done before which tends to usher in an inability to be relevant and competitive in an ever-changing world. Complacency is the absence of passion.
Without enough passion, your vision is going to hit some very rough roads. Complacency becomes the ruts and potholes in the road leading to your vision and without some help, you may find the vision – breaking down. Your passion for your vision needs to be ongoing and contagious so others will catch it. Your passion needs to be multi-dimensional, with data and reasoning as well as emotion and fervor. As a leader, you have to be the number one cheerleader for your vision even if that means you become a little annoying at times.
Proverbs 1:32 (ESV) – For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.
You already know you’re living in an age where everyone seems to want everything right now. It’s a sad truth that too many of today’s leaders are only interested in what they can have now and don’t realize that a great vision might be beyond their life’s journey. Chasing immediate gratification is a clear way to rob a team or organization of its ability to work toward a great future vision. Immediate gratification and visionary leadership are polar opposites. Quick results are never the outgrowth of a quality vision.
A leader’s responsibility for seeing a vision through until it comes to fruition is a quality that is too often lost in today’s culture. The push and pull for immediacy can be compelling, but it seldom yields anything of true worth. As a leader, you need to keep defining your vision and talking about how the trajectory of your vision is bigger than you and more encompassing than anything that the world might give in the short term.
James 4:14 (ESV) – Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
As a Christian, if you don’t think your vision is going to be attacked then you’re far too naive about the spiritual realities of life. The devil WILL attack the vision of every Christian. That’s an inevitability with the only question being when and how. A spiritual attack on your vision is very different from the normal visionary criticism or questioning. A spiritual attack on your vision doesn’t just go after your vision, it goes after you. There are always multiple layers within those attacks with an end result to discredit, undermine, and diminish you and your leadership.
When your vision is under spiritual attack you may be tempted to talk to your attacker(s) and try to convince them that your vision is worthwhile and important. It may be hard to hear, but a spiritual attacker is not interested in your opinion and has no interest in dialogue. They’ve already been convinced by dark spiritual forces that your vision is a direct threat to their life, and they’ll do everything possible to stop you – usually beginning with lying about you in some form or fashion. Do NOT waste your time and energy trying to convince them because that truly is putting your pearls in the pen with the pigs.
Matthew 7:6 (NLT) – Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
A spiritual attack will come in any number of forms, but it will always begin with a lie. You’ll be accused of not trusting your people, being unduly focused on the wrong thing, and only doing this for your personal gain, it’s nothing new, it’s too distracting, it hurts certain people, you’re on a power trip, you’re unqualified, it’s not what you were hired to do, it’s not your job, or you’re going to make everyone suffer so you can look good.
This is a good time to remind you that people who are being influenced by the devil will always accuse you of the very things that they are trying to do. It’s called projecting blame. For example, as you’re trying to do something that benefits everyone, their focus is on their own selfish ambitions, so they naturally assume that your vision is on your selfish ambitions. They are incapable of understanding that the vision of a Christian leader could be about service to others, and you’ll never convince them that your vision is selfless and for the benefit of all.
Your remedy to this is twofold. One, you take your vision, hurt feelings, concerns, and dialogue to the Father and let Him take care of it in ways that are impossible to you. Second, review your vision and add more details so others will see that you’re committed to your vision and that you are including them in the planning. A spiritual attack to your vision is a reality you should prepare for in the initial planning phases of writing your vision. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in the writing and the spiritual attacks will be less intense and last a shorter period of time.
Keeping the vision alive requires a great deal from you as a leader. Here are a few more thoughts to consider in order to keep your vision from becoming just another good idea that never produced a hundredfold, sixty, or even thirty.
Matthew 13:8 (NLT) – Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
- Keep Defining the Problem. Every quality vision is based on the simple truth that there’s an existing problem in need of a remedy. Your vision is the solution to that problem, and you want/need to do something about it. You need to let others know that if your vision doesn’t become reality, the problem will still be there and will probably get worse. You’ve been placed in a position of leadership to raise the stakes and build a better future for others. If other people never see, feel, or hear the pain of the current problem, they’ll not be willing to accept your vision. So, keep defining the problem.
- Provide the Solution. Your vision is the solution to the big problem that you’ve been defining. Your vision needs to have the details of how it will change the situation and how, (not when), things will be better. Use whatever media and communication tools at your disposal to help others to visualize and understand that your vision is the solution to that problem. (Note: If your vision is all about you, you’ll never really provide a solution for others. All quality visions are in service to others in some form or fashion.)
- Provide the Why. “Why” means there must be a reason, a purpose behind moving your vision into existence at this time. “Why” is the motivation behind something that needs to happen now. To bring your vision to life, you’re going to have to give reasons for any type of change in behavior, thinking, or action. You’ll have to define what has to happen because if it doesn’t happen, there will be something that will happen that others will not like. Raise the stakes on people and help them to see the “why” behind your passion and their need to get behind your vision.
Great visions are not weak or fragile. They’re powerful and strong. They can withstand the pressure that inevitably comes from other people who will find that vision fearful, difficult, or threatening. The better you can articulate your passion and the strategies that accompany your vision, the better your chances of implementing that vision. Be clear and detailed. Be simple and intelligent. Pray daily for your vision and ask the Lord’s help you bring it about. Be transparent about how your vision will improve the lives of others and bring about a change that includes a moral and ethical compass for better behaviors, better actions, and better lives. A godly vision is something of great worth given to Christian leaders for reasons that reach beyond this temporal life and into a life that’s far more lasting.
About the Author: Rich Weigel has served as President of Christian Coaches Network International Since 2020 – is a Certified Leadership and Visioneering Coach, (CPCC, CPLC, CPVC) – Author of Engaging Christian Leaders: A Talent-Based Coaching Workbook – CEO of ProEdCoach: Leading a Team of Educators to Provide a New Model of Education for Christian Schools – Vice President of Region Leaders – and Over 20 Years Leading School Districts. You can reach out to Dr. Weigel at ProEdCoach@gmail.com.