The ability to cast a compelling vision makes the difference between a good leader and a great leader. When a strong vision is communicated well, people will achieve far more than initially expected.
On April 12, 1861, the Confederate states had seceded from the Union, and all eyes were on the man in charge. A great country was in disarray and the future of America was uncertain. The Civil War had just begun, and despite the dismal nature of the moment, Abraham Lincoln made the choice to envision America not as it was, but as it could be.
So you have a vision, now what? Here are three things every leader must do when casting vision.
1. Describe why the vision is important.
As in the case of President Lincoln, sometimes it's obvious why the vision is necessary. However, sometimes it is hard to see why such drastic changes are needed. Radical measures should only follow strong vision, and a leader's job is to describe why such changes are just, necessary, or unavoidable. Simply put, the vision must be displayed as the necessary answer to a difficult problem.
Every monumental leader has a great vision, and every great vision has a just cause. In other words, your vision has to be important. If your cause isn't seen by others as worth their time, then people will never make your vision their own. You must create urgency in the hearts and minds of people. Great visions will reproduce in other people, but first you have to tell them why it should.
2. Describe the difficulty of the vision.
Every world-changing vision is difficult to reach. For example, reuniting a country and ending slavery has never been perceived as a walk in the park. Difficulty can mean several things, but as a leader your message needs to promote the idea that because something is difficult it is also worthwhile. Despite the difficulty, the bottom line is that people want to be a part of something that gives them meaning and purpose.
When leaders choose to be transparent about the difficulty of the road ahead, it allows people to make a personal decision. Are they on or off the team? Even amidst the difficult challenge of a worthy vision, the people that stay committed to your just cause are now inspired to take action.
In spite of all of this, always remember that difficult still means possible. Only impossible means impossible.
3. Express the confidence that the vision will become reality.
Abraham Lincoln had to first "see" a country reunited without actually seeing it. He had to believe that it could happen before it would happen. Not only did he have to believe it himself, but he had to inspire and empower a country to feel that they were capable of victory. Lincoln had to inspire the Union to believe that they were ready for the challenge, and remind the people of the American spirit within them.
As a leader, once you know the difficulty of the vision and the sacrifice necessary to accomplish it, the time comes for you to decide that the vision can and will be done. Once you do that, you must convince others to live the same way.
This is the part of the process when you fight the war, give a lot of famous speeches, and make a lot of important decisions. In other words, you now live life on a mission. You are intentional , committed, and driven. Every decision is now made with the end goal in mind, and no matter how hard things become you must press on toward the goal.
Every great vision is a dream of a better world. What vision do you find yourself living in now? It might be yours, or it may have been created by somebody else. Either way, it starts with you making the decision to invest your life fully into it. Whether you are a vision creator or a vision catcher, it doesn't matter. Be the change you want to see in the world.