How (Not) to Inspire a Shared Vision

Like millions of other Americans, I tuned in to hear President Obama’s second inaugural address.  The President is rightly admired for his strong oratory skills and ability to use communication as an effective leadership skill.  That’s why I was so disappointed in the speech.  While there were parts of the speech that resonated with me, overall I thought it landed flat.  As I reflected on my disappointment, I realized that the President had not inspired a shared vision.

If you lead within a church, a ministry, a non-profit, a business or a community, you must be able to communicate in order to lead.  As part of the communication responsibility, every leader must be able to inspire a shared vision.  An inspired vision pulls people forward.  It projects a clear image of a possible future and generates energy to strive toward the destination.

I think the President’s address can help us better understand how to inspire a shared vision.  Here are five components of an inspiring vision (adapted from Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge) along with my two cents on how the President performed on each:

  1. An inspiring vision shares an IDEAL.  An ideal is a high standard to aspire to, an ennobling purpose and greater good we are seeking.    What followers need from our leaders is not a laundry list of ideals, but a single high standard to which we want to aspire.
  2. An inspiring vision is UNIQUE, it creates healthy pride in being different by creating an identity that is extraordinary.  An inspired vision helps followers know how we are collectively unique, singular, and unequaled.
  3. An inspiring vision uses IMAGE to make concepts tangible through descriptive language.   Word pictures, stories and symbols help make the vision more memorable and compelling. When a vision lacks true focus, the use of many images prevents the vision from being memorable.
  4. An inspiring vision is FUTURE-ORIENTED, looking toward a destination.  Visions describe an exciting possibility for the future and stretch our minds out into the future and asks us to dream.
  5. An inspiring vision is built around a COMMON GOOD, a way people can come together.  Visions are about developing a shared sense of destiny.  Followers must be able to see themselves and their interests served in the vision; they must see how they are a part of the vision in order to enlist others in it.

So how well do you think the President inspired a shared vision?  What worked and what missed the mark?  And what are some examples of leaders who did a masterful job of inspiring a shared vision?

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Chad Hall

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I just discovered this today and am looking forward to exploring the content on here. It looks like it could be very helpful. Just an FYI - in your paragraph on not putting out B+ material you have a typo. A little ironic. :-) The third sentence begins with "You time" not "Your time."
 
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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
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