Leadership is often made synonymous with vision creation. Strong leaders are assumed to have a strong vision. But I don’t think that is quite right. Leaders may have strong boundaries on their vision, but that doesn’t mean they hold every detail in focus. Instead, strong leaders know they must trust the people carrying out the vision. They must trust these people because only through them is every detail attended to.
Leaders should focus on making the best decisions on questions within the scope of the vision they have broadly defined. This is an essential task of leadership: to determine what questions are within the realm of the vision. This doesn’t mean that leaders will answer every question. No, instead, they will rely on others with more knowledge of the details to make decisions.
How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day?
How many decisions does a person make in each day? We make at least 200 food decisions alone every day, on top of the thousands of other decisions. These daily decisions create the story of our life, whether we realize it or not.
So what about organizations? How many decisions does an organization make each day? If we assume 1,000 decisions per person per day and assume that maybe 1/3 of those decisions are work related (probably more), then we could take the number of employees times 333. For an organization of 100 people that would be over 33,000 decisions each day! No leader could handle making that many decisions. It is obviously not realistic, desired, nor would it be productive.
Employees make thousands of decisions each day without the oversight of a leader. So how does vision creation work in this context?
Vision Creation Theory Diagram
This simple illustration gives an idea of how visions are created through leadership and the decision making processes.
Though obviously more complex, decisions are broken into small and large decisions. Small decisions happen all the time and may or may not help better define the vision. Choosing which color pen to use will not affect the vision.
On the other hand, there are many other daily decisions that will affect the vision. Employees will handle many of these questions themselves. But there will be decisions that need more thought and this is where leaders often step in.
Six Key Roles of a Leader in the Vision Creation Process
Here are the roles of the leader in this model of vision creation. Leaders:
- Help create and refine the vision.
- Keep the scope of the vision in balance.
- Determine whether or not a decision is within the scope of the vision.
- Make decisions or give space to make decisions on important questions that the define the vision and scope of the vision.
- Listen – this topic is so important it warrants its own bullet points.
- Leaders listen to bring pieces of the vision into focus. Leaders also listen to help individuals place their contributions into the broader context of the vision.
- Leaders listen to better understand why the vision and pieces of the vision matter to people.
- Leaders listen to let other know that their participation and work within the vision matters.
- Delegate decisions to others so that the vision creation process is participatory and so that they can focus on only the most important decisions defining the vision.
None of this is to say that decisions that aren’t made by leaders are not important. Instead, I am suggesting that a leader’s most important work revolves around the constant vision creation process and the decision-making process used to get there.
What decisions have you made today? What visions are you creating?