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What is your vision for the future

Do you know your vision?

I’ve spoken about connections to the past quite often. Vision plays a role.

Call them connections, call them reminders, call them divine coincidences, sometimes the universe ties events of the past with things transpiring today. Sometimes they are “huh, that was interesting” moments and sometimes they hold powerful lessons if we choose to look. 

I subscribe to the newsletter series by Jason Barnaby of Fire Starters (if you don’t subscribe, you should). Jason sends out quick thoughts three times a week. In his Monday blast (aptly titled M3 – Monday Morning Motivation), a few weeks ago Jason spoke of vision, but not just vision. Repeated here, with permission, Jason said:

“If you are a leader, whose permission are you waiting for to lead?”

“If you serve a magnificent God, do you have a magnificent vision to match?”

“These are two quotes by T.D. Jakes from the Global Leadership Summit several years ago that I think about at least once a week. They had a PROFOUND effect on my life’s direction and what I am doing now with Fire Starters Inc.”

Even if you aren’t a person of faith, the question of magnificent vision still applies.

So how is your vision for what you are currently doing and hope to do in the future?

      • Are you happening to it or is it happening to you?
      • Are you being proactive or reactive?
      • Worse yet, are you living someone else’s vision for your life? 

You have gifts, talents, abilities, experience, wisdom, and insight that the world is waiting on and desperately needs.

As many of Jason’s posts do…it got me thinking.

I talk to Information Technology departments (and HR and Marketing departments, too) a lot about vision.

We discuss how to create one, how to communicate it and how to define and execute strategies to achieve it.

But…

What about my own vision?

Is it a magnificent vision?

And, what of leadership?

What of my leadership? 

Wow, pretty heady stuff for a Monday morning! But this post is about connections, right?

Then it happened.

My son, Brad, was dropping off his son, Jordan, for another fabulous day with grandma. When he arrived, he handed me a folder. “Mom found this as she and Randy were packing for their move. She thought you might want it.” 

In the folder was a picture. The picture was taken about 34 years ago. A picture of my dad, holding on to my two sons, Jeremy and Brad.

A vision I could follow

Having just visited my dad the day before lying in bed at the nursing home, seeing the fifty-five-year-old version of my dad was a bit shocking, to say the least.

The man in that picture is six years younger than I am today. Yet in a 35-year blink of an eye, he is nearing the end of his journey. 

The folder also contained an old newspaper. A copy of the Indiana Baptist Observer from December 1995. There on page one was a letter from my dad to the American Baptist Churches of Indiana reflecting upon his pending retirement on the 31st of that month. In it, he reflects back on his 40 years in the ministry with the realization that his calling, the calling he had been following his entire career (and perhaps his entire life), was a call to lead.

Dad was a great preacher, teacher, coach, and counselor, yet, his calling was to lead…and lead he did! 

Though he never used the words “magnificent vision” (or, even vision for that matter), what jumped off the page to me was his magnificent vision for the churches he served and for the denomination organizations he led. He had a vision for what they could be and what they could accomplish.

Others followed too 

He also wrote of his vision for the future of the church, the challenges ahead, and the need for a new generation of leaders to help the church navigate that future.

Jason’s quote of T.D. Jakes rang in my ears.

“If you are a leader, whose permission are you waiting for to lead?”

Gene Ton would say,

“If you are being called to lead, why aren’t you listening to that call to lead?”

Whether it is for a church, a business, or your family, friends, and organizations…quit sitting back waiting on others: lead, my friend, lead!

You might be surprised how many others believe in your vision, too. 

leadership, history, business, #rooseveltriverWhat makes great leaders great? Is there a moment, an event, that you can point to and say “this is when they became great”, or “this is when they made history”, or even “this is when they became presidential”? Is there a catalyst, an event, where they stand up and lead? Meriwether Lewis was Thomas Jefferson’s secretary, William Clark was hanging out in a cabin in the southern Indiana territory (sorry, I HAVE to throw my heroes in the mix, I know they weren’t presidents), Lincoln was a no-named lawyer from Illinois, Benjamin Harrison played ostrich and stuck his head in the sand for the first two years of the civil war, Roosevelt was considered for the head of street cleaning in New York, and Eisenhower was a mid-level officer primarily known for being a good football coach. What happened? How did they end up in history books? Why are we (read “me”) still talking about them 50, 100, and 200 years later?

Over the last several years, I have studied all of the above to one degree or another. Two keys stand out for me: First, the ability to see things in a grander scale, let’s call that vision, though its more than that, as we will see. Second, the ability to engage with people at an individual level, while at the same time engaging with people en masse and to obtain buy-in.

Vision: Great leaders see things that others don’t see.  They see order, where others see chaos. They see patterns and correlations where others see unrelated events. They are more comfortable with a blank slate, than with the status quo. Let’s use Roosevelt as an example (Hey! It IS the Roosevelt River after all!). Here is a man who struggled with the decision to enter public office as the head of the street cleaners in New York (hardly a presidential role), yet in a few short years he became, Chief of Police, then Governor, and then Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and eventually a Vice Presidential Candidate and, as we know through history, President of the United States).

The Navy Roosevelt inherited was not even a foreshadow of the elite force we know today. All of the Armed Services were still decimated from the Civil War just a few decades removed. Yet, instead of following the status quo, Roosevelt saw the opportunity as a blank slate. Instead of focusing inward on our own shores, Roosevelt saw the United States as a rising world power and the Navy as a key component of that rise. Roosevelt developed the Large Policy, policy that defined plans for a canal to allow traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific, fueling stations scattered throughout the world for new battleships, and the relationships with foreign powers that would have to be built to support this grand strategy.

Yet with this grand strategy, this grand vision, Roosevelt would struggle against the, dare I say, the politics of the status quo. (Parenthetically, I wonder now if it was this struggle against the status quo that many leaders face had a hand in Meriwether Lewis’ untimely death, be it murder or suicide?) Roosevelt continually butted heads with those who wanted to protect the status quo, or who didn’t see the patterns that he saw. This leads us to the second key of a great leader…

Buy-in: That innate ability to engage with some people on a very personal, a very intimate level, to develop a team and have that team follow them anywhere, even to face death (oops, getting ahead of myself here), while at the same time, engaging the masses (if not the powers-at-be) all to achieve the vision, the grand strategy, the Large Policy. canoes

Roosevelt’s America found itself at odds with Spain. Cuba would become the battleground. Roosevelt volunteered. He volunteered to help form the first United States Cavalry…a fighting force of volunteers known to history as the Rough Riders. Roosevelt helped to raise a regiment, not from soldiers and sailors, but from cowboys, ranchers, hunters, and gold miners…his friends from the Bad Lands in South Dakota. Friends that would come when he called, friends that would follow him any where, not because they believed in the Large Policy, or the grand vision, but because the believed in Roosevelt. (It is interesting to note, at the beginning of the conflict Roosevelt was a Lieutenant Colonel, Leonard Wood was appointed Colonel, yet the image of Roosevelt and the Rough Riders is emblazoned on history.)

As Roosevelt’s political career blossomed after the war, he was able to engage the populous. Through imagery (like the Rough Riders, the Teddy Bear, the “big stick”) he engaged with the common man. It enabled him to gain the presidency and it enabled him to implement parts of his Large Policy even against some very powerful political adversaries. Did they see the vision of Roosevelt? Did they see the correlations and trends? I seriously doubt it. Again, they believed in Roosevelt, believed he cared about them, believed he spoke for them.

Great leaders today have these same two traits: vision and the ability to achieve buy-in on a personal level and on a large scale. Where do you spend your time? Do you have a great vision, but struggle to achieve it?…look to achieve buy-in. Do you have a great team, but no place to lead them?…seek a vision, a strategy, a Large Policy. (Again, parenthetically, I believe that is what made Lewis and Clark successful. The names are inseparable in history. Why? Because Lewis had a vision and Clark had buy-in. Together they achieved the un-achievable.)

So is it a point in time? Is it a single event? Is it a catalyst that catapults some to greatness? No…it is having the vision and the buy-in so that the point in time, the single event, the catalyst is recognized for what it is (or created) and leveraged.

#RooseveltRiver is my year long exploration with Dan Miller of Historical Solutions into leadership using the backdrop of history and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. To read more in this series, select “Roosevelt River” from the Category drop down on the right. 

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.