Clarity Brings A Leader’s Vision to Life

by  Jennifer Olney  |  Leadership Development

It is the desire of every leader to see their vision become reality. The challenge leaders face translating vision to reality is having the focus and clarity to bring their vision to life. Prior to any discussion of bringing a vision to life you need solid plan, a foundation.

What Is Clarity Really About?

Clarity really means to be free of roadblocks, obstacles… to be clear in purpose. You need to have a simple understanding of what you want and to be clear, exact in how you will reach your vision. When you are clear about what you want, you can explain your vision to others so they can understand your vision as well.  Think of clarity as the fuel of vision and action. If you aren’t clear about the “why and how” you will never lift your vision off the ground.

Clarity Gives Direction.

Your team cannot follow you unless you give them a map.  Without directions you are on a road to nowhere. The clarity you bring to your vision lays down the map to follow. The team knows where you are going and you have the ability to set the course.  There will be many twists and turns in the road and you don’t want to lose your team in quest to bring your vision to life. Be sure to have this plan laid out before you set out on your journey.

Clarity Breeds Passion.

When you as a leader are clear in your vision you cannot contain the passion and excitement you have when speaking to others about your vision. When you are expressing your vision they feel it. Your team can smell and taste their world once your vision is implemented.  They “get it”. They will get on board your bus so to speak. They will want to join your cause and carry forward your mission with you.  The vision and passion come together and now they have a mission as well. When folks understand the mission, when they have clear marching orders, now you have a passionate team.

Clarity Gives Meaning.

The mundane routine daily work can become stale. We tend look at daily tasks as being dull and void of any real value.  If a leader can provide clarity to the task by providing a “why” to the “what”, those daily tasks become less meaningless. The leader shows the purpose behind those tasks that seem so hollow. There is a bigger picture that tasks easily become routine—dull, hollow and void of significance. Clarity can lift the mind’s eye to a greater reality. There can be no cultivation of meaning without clarity.

Clarity Provides Synergy.

There are many reasons why leaders lose their teams:  mistrust, ego and lack of strategic clarity. When a leader brings clarity to the table, roles and tasks fall into focus and the team becomes one unit. Each member works with precision. You bring out the talent within each person. Each person has his or her own unique skill set that can be utilized to bring the vision into reality.

Clarity Defines Focus and Success.

Everyone wants to be successful.  The problem is that without clarity, we have no idea how we are making a difference and being successful in our value.  As a leader, you need to put clarity into the bigger picture to unleash the drive within each team member to achieve their own personal success in the vision.  As humans, our greatest weakness can be that we have so many great ideas that we forget to focus on the proper steps to reach our goals. We get so focus on the vision that we forget how to build a sturdy foundation so that our vision has strength to sustain the test of time.  As stated earlier, clarity has to be free of obstacles and roadblocks. One of those roadblocks is that you cannot try to do everything at once. Take your time, focus on putting the right people in the right jobs and build your vision with clear purpose. Success will come when you are clear about how you value your people and your purpose.

A Visionary Leader Sees Clearly.

When a leader starts firing off disconnected ideas, they tend to lose their street cred with their followers. This can leave others feeling disillusioned. A leader should always be creative but with a bit of precision in how they communicate their ideas. Not every idea is going to be a grand slam. You need to find focus on which ideas you bring to the table and communicate the ones you feel the strongest about to your team.  Over time, a leader will discover that those ideas that have a clear purpose and precise foundation are the ones that stick. You can relate those ideas to others when you see clearly the path that can become a reality. You earn respect from others when you stop trying to throw everything at everyone.

To be a leader with clarity is powerful and there is no limit to how far you will travel when you clearly see the path in front of you.  Find your vision, chart your course, give your followers a plan for the bigger picture and set your sites of bringing your vision to reality.

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What People Are Saying

Jim Scheper  |  10 Aug 2013  |  Reply

If this discipline is practiced –
Average businesses become great businesses
Communication is the key to success
And this clarity of the mission/goals message is critical
Large or small business – both need this

Jennifer Olney  |  14 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Agreed, Jim. If you put clarity into practice you get the results you desire. Your plans execute with precision. Every business and leader can benefit from having clarity. Clear vision sets the stage for success. Thank you for your comment.

Stan Faryna  |  14 Aug 2013  |  Reply

What is leadership – really? I find myself returning to this question (and related questions), again and again.

Is it about me? Is it about you? Is it about us?

Is it about Ambitions? Destinations? Results? Executions and Strategies?

Is it about Hopes? Dreams? Human Destiny – Freedom, Dignity and Love?

Jennifer Olney  |  14 Aug 2013  |  Reply

To be a leader is about holding yourself true to your own principles and character. Living your values. Leading yourself first and being an example to others. To lead others is a privilege, an honor. Each of us leads ourselves in this world.

Stan Faryna  |  14 Aug 2013  | 

Screwtape could not have answered me better or made a finer toast than you have here. [grin]

Gentle, toying playfulness aside, your reply emphasizes that leadership is about me and my fantasies. I’m already reminiscing about fast cars, bottles of Dom Perignon bubbling over at the uncork and weekend castle get aways of my past and, hopefully again in my future.

But is there a better word for my own cunning and self-absorbed ambitions? Because there is the other side of “fantasy” – an inadequate substitute for love, compassion and service, an embarrassing and cavalier romp in the kitty’s sand box and, perhaps too, just desserts (the same dessert wine that John gives us glimpse in Revelation).

Good questions beget more good questions. Quick and easy answers, I fear, are dangerous.

What about objective… truth, goodness and beauty. Was Plato mistaken? Thomas Aquinas? Thomas Jefferson? C.S. Lewis? Jacques Maritain? Martin Luther King, Jr.?

I highly recommend a classic on the topic of leadership, Yves Simon’s A General Theory of Authority. It is, however, not light reading like a Maxwell, Ziggy or a Tony.

No fear! Be safe, my friends.

Jennifer Olney  |  14 Aug 2013  | 

It’s not fantasy to hold yourself accountable, Stan. Leadership begins with yourself. The character of a leader lies within their own principles. Simply put, leadership is about truth, your own truth, and how your lead yourself. There is not a magic book to leadership.

Stan Faryna  |  14 Aug 2013  | 

I’m enjoying this conversation. Thank you, Jen.

When I reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in the small Birmingham jail cell, I think of many things. There he is – putting himself last (in a manner of speaking) and human beings (their dignity) ahead of himself. There he is reflecting deeply on Thomas Aquinas’ treatise on the matter of God, authority, human destiny, politics, and civil disobedience. As the man writes his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, his heart is lifted up by a truth and mission that transcends his own personal ambitions, happiness and comfort.

His vision is not his vision. Perhaps, it is a vision, hope and dream of the people. His clarity is about the dignity of the human person – not how the civil rights fight shall be won or when it will be won. As he admits himself, he stands on the mountaintop like Moses, looking upon the distant promised land, but knowing (perhaps with sadness) that he shall never put his own foot there.

And surely no one questions whether or not MLK, Jr. was a leader.

Jennifer Olney  |  14 Aug 2013  | 

Speaking to your point, yes, MLK was a leader. I do not believe that was questioned? But picking up on your points here and to the post written. Would you agree that MLK’s vision and clarity would be a model as described in the post above?

@DrJackKing  |  15 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Jennifer, thank you for this post. As much as I want to support what you have to say (or, at least, the reasons we might say something like this), I keep thinking to myself our saying it doesn’t make it so, even if everybody is saying it. By propagating this kind of belief system under the cloak of leadership (i.e., the leader is the keeper of the vision flame), we lend credibility to it and, over time, we make it an acceptable outcome. Worse still, taking a marketing approach to leadership cheapens its very heart and soul by relegating the people we serve into mere objects (e.g., a talent to manage, a human resource, a constituent, a voter, a student, or an employee) and the means to an end (e.g., glory, fame, power, and profits). The people deserve so much better. I think this is what Stan Faryna is wisely trying to help us understand.

When we come together to speak of vision, I’m generally left with the impression we are afraid to speak truth. When that happens, we leave too many important things unsaid, largely because we fail to honor those we purport to serve. Leadership, as you mention, is a privilege, a great privilege bestowed by the people (that’s why our engagement in this discussion is so vital). Among those so privileged, I hope we can agree few there are who truly can be called a visionary leader. We know them, not because of what they have to say as they unpack their ‘compelling’ vision but, rather, by what they do, and all of them DO the same thing: instead of bringing a vision to the people, they uncover the people’s vision and bring IT to life. Said differently, what sets the leader apart is their willingness to sacrifice everything to help bring clarity to the people’s vision. Everything.

I think we would agree authentic leadership at any level involves sacrifice; it may involve suffering. In truth, the only real reason to lead is because you can do something for those who have chosen to follow you. Let me say that in other terms: leadership is not about leading, it’s about being followed. As long as the people believe in you, and you are the best one to lead them, you are their leader. When our gifts are no longer needed, the people call on another to lead them. It’s nothing personal. People follow those who satisfy their imminent needs (e.g., a warrior, a peacemaker, a healer, an orator). Pure and simple. And we fool ourselves to think the peoples’ needs can be conveniently tied to a calendar, a contract, or a political process. The people do not hire or appoint leaders; they follow them. This is important to remember. Whether 7 years old or 77 years old, leaders are chosen by those who would follow them. Of course, self-proclaimed leaders far too comfortable with the status quo (provided it meet their needs) who fail to see the Beauty in service, community, compassion, and love, seem to think leadership is necessary because the people lack vision and, as such, it is their obligation (perhaps, destiny) to give them one.

Nothing could be further from truth. The people see through this vain glory, and they realize those who are busy unpacking their compelling vision are not leading, they are selling. Sadly, such ‘leaders’ are so busy looking past those they purport to serve/lead, they are seemingly unaware leadership is clearly beyond their reach. As mentioned above, no one can lead if no one follows. Moreover, no one can lead if they fail to put the people first, because they won’t be followed. Let’s ask ourselves, how many of the ‘leaders’ we know today are willing to sacrifice their small coaching business, their seminar revenue streams, their position at the top of a hi-rise hierarchy, their portfolios or profits, their ‘future,’ or their life for the good of the people? Probably none of them, right? Have we thought about why? Is it, as Stan points out, because they typically are self-absorbed and largely focused on ‘me’ rather than ‘we?’ There’s an easy way to find out: are the people expected to make sacrifices for the good of the company/organization or vice versa? Ironic, isn’t it? Sad, too. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The LCG, for example, can be a guiding light that helps set the record straight by turning the present-day paradigm of leadership on its head, quite literally, if we can find the good courage to break free of the inertia that binds us to the status quo.

In simplest terms, Jennifer, if it is clarity we seek, may I suggest we forget what the gurus say and ask the people what they want to say. Again, thank you for raising this issue and encouraging an important dialogue.

Stan Faryna  |  15 Aug 2013  |  Reply

I hope this conversation has illuminated both our readers and ourselves… on questions about leadership. Hopefully too – inspiring and encouraging new, deeper questions. And not just questions about leadership, but also questions about who we are and what we do (right or wrong). Or not do.

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream Speech

MLK, Jr. did not hold the “patent” on the dream and vision of Freedom; he was not alone in the hunger and thirst for freedom, justice and dignity. It is a hunger and thirst that is in the human spirit; it is a hope expressed again and again in the course of human history; it is a vision and a longing written into the founding and destiny of a nation AND it was a cry and prayer in the hearts of the African American community. But, yes, MLK,Jr. felt it’s urgency like few others. “Now is the time,” he called out to a nation. “Now is the time!”

The vision was not MLK’s vision. It belonged to us; it belongs to us; it belongs to humanity. Nor did this cause promise/guarantee to pay his bills, feed his children, or offer him a gentle and comfortable retirement. Nor was this cause easy, fun, or pleasant. It was hard; it hurt; it was hell. MLK, Jr. was beaten, humiliated and, eventually, killed. And, yes, his courageous words and this cause spoke to the hearts of his generation, a nation, the world and to us today. Because his truth was a truth that is also our truth. And by these signs, wonders and terrors, we know that MLK, Jr. was a leader, a hero and a teacher.

Was it clarity or great virtue or God that allowed MLK,Jr. to succeed in his service and ministry?

Please believe me that my own intention is not to question whether or not vision and clarity are components of leadership and management, but to inspire our understanding of leadership to its full dimensions. To inspire questions that will help each of us unlock the keys of leadership and human destiny. Because I worry that too often we mistake a supervisor or manager for a leader and such mistake is very dangerous. Not just for you and me. But perilous for us and humanity.

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