On vision

by The Editor

TheThingAboutSERIES: Very often the link is rightfully made between leadership and vision. Much has been written about leadership, far less about vision. What is a vision? Why is it important and what is its effect? More importantly, what can one tell about a leader by the way in which they relate their vision to an audience, the extent to which it is inspiring or dreary? Today’s column tries to answer those questions.

On vision

By: Gareth van Onselen

12 April 2013

Any leader must have a vision. Ideally, it is on that basis they are elected to public office and by that standard their decisions and actions are gauged. Thus, being able to articulate their purpose, clearly and cogently, is an essential requirement of their profession.

If they are a great leader, as opposed to a good one, they will be able to convey their vision in an inspiring manner too; for it is one thing to set out and describe one’s goals, quite another to motivate and unite others behind them.

That is not to suggest that a vision itself cannot be inspiring. Any objective, the purpose of which is betterment, should be a source of encouragement. But such noble intent is often lost in the details; formal action is pragmatic and mundane, ideals and principles are what breathe life into rhetoric – the aspirational lifeblood of any visionary commitment.

And so one can often tell much about a leader by the manner in which they speak. Those leaders without a vision are dull and dreary, their offer defined by vague blandness, jargon or ‘facts’ – free-floating and never anchored to design or resolve. Those leaders with a vision understand that every undertaking must illustrate and embolden a common purpose and set concrete proposals against the backdrop of those principles and values that underpin them, so that an audience might appreciate the greater good they aspire to achieve.

Few things are better able to motivate for change than an inspiring vision; properly relayed it can have a powerful effect on people who, for the most part, look for a reason to do good, to grow and prosper.

Unfortunately, in the other direction, few things can quicker stall or retard progress than an environment defined by a lack of direction or purpose.

And it says much too, about any audience unable to distinguish the one from the other.

An abbreviated version of this column first appeared in the Business Day. For more columns from The Thing About series, click here.

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