Inspire a Shared Vision
Where there is no vision, the people perish - Proverbs 29:18 (Biblesoft, 1995, KJV). If one extrapolates the aforementioned phrase, one might add, without someone to inspire, what good is a vision. A vision is held captive by the leader’s ability to inspire followers to catch the vision. An innovative strategy is worthless without the ability to execute it, which requires a compelling vision and passion (Vision Holdings Limited, 2007). Corporate vision is a short, succinct, and inspiring statement of what the organization intends to become and to achieve at some point in the future (Kotelnikov, 2008). Kouzes and Posner says that leaders have to make sure what they see is also something that others can see (p. 105). Scripture encompasses the concept of inspire a shared vision when it says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (Biblesoft, 1995, NKJV). This speaks to Kouzes and Posner idea of imagining the possibilities. The one quality that all leaders have in common is that they have a clear and exciting vision for the future (Kotelnikov, 2008). Leaders are dreamers, idealists, and possibility thinkers (p.106).
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. (Japanese proverb)
Too avoid the nightmare and to codify the vision nothing better assists this process better than a common purpose. What people want to hear is not simply the leader’s vision; they want to hear about their own aspirations (p.117). The trick is to bring the followers personal vision and incorporate it into the organizational vision. For example, Victory Outreach International (VOI) has grown into one of the largest inner-city ministries in the world meeting the needs of people from all walks of life (Victory Outreach International, 2007). Fundamentally, VOI is to reach the drug addict, prostitute, and gang-member. What this says to the inner-city follower is that VOI will help your children, mother, or father. The organizational vision has become a personal vision. No greater motivator has entered the heart of man than the well being of family.
In terms of a faith organization, VOI is a relatively new ministry - 50 years old. In the early years VOI faced tremendous opposition and had to navigate the prejudices of the advent guard church. In 1967 bringing drug addicts, prostitutes, and gang members to church was not acceptable. Sonny Arguinzoni, founder of VOI, had to cut his own path. In any company when a leader is trying to tap the unknown of possibilities, he or she must sometimes challenge the process.
Challenge The Process
The search for opportunities is essential for any leader wishing to challenge the process. However if the work of a leader is change (p.164), those who lead the change place themselves at-risk. The leadership challenge illustrates well why a leader should search for opportunities. Unfortunately, they skim over the dangers of such actions. To Posner’s defense, he does say leadership is not about challenge for challenge’s sake (p.173); however, he does not spend enough time elaborating why? One can question the status quo but simply to challenge tradition by asking questions seems naïve. The talented leader can seize the initiative and exercise outsight but he or she must watch their back. Posner states that leaders do not like the status quo and want to make something happen (p.169), although these are the sought after traits any organization would want, these same maverick leaders will be well advised to give honor were honor is due.
It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new order of government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage form the old order (Machiavelli, 2003, p.31). Once an up and coming leader gives the deserved respect to the status quo - it was the status quo that gave them the job in the first place – they should then turn their attention towards taking the initiative and making something happen.
Challenging the process will shake-up the organization and call for change. In any change, even good change, cultural cohesion can be lost. One could argue that challenging the process can affect the culture of an organization. UC Berkeley Psych professor Charlan Nemeth writes in the California Management Review:
The most admired companies are presumed to also have a spark that ignites the workforce and allows the enterprise to respond readily to change. That ingredient is innovation and all the top companies embrace it passionately." Is this really true? Do our most admired companies emphasize innovation as much as execution? I think not. Most companies, even those considered visionary, emphasize mechanisms of social control rather than innovation. They recognize the power of clear goals, worker participation, consistent feedback, a cohesive workforce, and a reward system that underscores desired behaviors and values (Nemeth, 2007)
This is the reality that the Posner’s model would send unsuspecting leaders into the field. The saving grace to Posner’s challenging the process occurs when he mentions creating a climate for learning (p.201). A simple fix would be to rearrange the author’s chronological order. The first step in challenging the process should be to create a climate for learning. Then all the other steps in Kouzes and Posner’s model can follow. Once people are apt to learn, they are more apt to accept change. If a culture of learning can not be done, change jobs. However, once the leaning culture is established, the challenge will be less a challenge and more a learning experience.
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