“I have a dream” Martin Luther King
I once asked the founder of the organization in which I worked how he defined vision. He told me it is something that continually eats away at you until you have to make it happen.
When he became a Christian there was no support for young people who needed to be discipled. This lack gnawed away at him until he finally collaborated with a farmer in western New South Wales to create a small community in which young people could study, be mentored, reflect and work to contribute to their board and tuition. Out of this idea has developed an organization in which hundreds of young people have been discipled and gone onto greater Christian service.
Vision is more than just coming up with a good idea. Most of us have plenty of these. It is about enduring the hardships of the journey and to encourage and take others on that journey as well. From both the animal and human studies, we know there are critical developmental windows in the first years of life. Sensory and motor skills are formed, and if this early opportunity is lost, trying to play catch up is hugely frustrating and mostly unsuccessful.
Prof. Zajoc writes of studies which investigated recovery from congenital blindness. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth would suddenly have functional use of their eyes. Nevertheless, success was rare. Referring to one young boy, the world does not appear to the patient as filled with the gifts of intelligible light, color, and shape upon awakening from surgery,Zajoc observes. Light and eyes were not enough to grant the patient sight. The light of day beckoned, but no light of mind replied within the boy’s anxious, open eyes.
Zajoc quotes from a study by a Dr. Moreau who observed that while surgery gave the patient the power to see,the employment of this power, which as a whole constitutes the act of seeing, still has to be acquired from the beginning. Dr. Moreau concludes, To give back sight to a congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon.To which Zajoc adds, The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind, he explains. That inner light the light of the mind must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world. (National Right to Life News, March 30, 1993, p. 22)
Martin Luther King’s statement I have a dream,saw a better world. But he also shared with people the pain of the journey to that dream. Even though the American constitution declared the liberty and freedom of all people this was not a reality in the American south. Martin Luther King paid for his vision with his life but his shared journey with other African Americans allowed for significant progress to be made in the breaking down of racist barriers.
Warren Bennis said this after his study of organisations,
In every case where they had reached epiphanies, there was a leader who was able to enrol people in an exciting, insanely significant vision. Someone who was capable of reeling in the advocates and supporters to work with him or her. They all believed that they could make a dent in the universe.(1997)
The signs of an effective organisational vision for this learning context will be evident in its followers. Secondly the question must be asked at all levels are people learning? It will be the leadership vision and effective management of the vision that will enable your organization to achieve new goals.
Bennis (1997) also states what leaders must create is the social architecture that encourages people to work together successfully. The difficulty facing leadership is to harness egos to unleash the potential that is available. For an organisation such as the church the social structure must extent beyond superficial social niceties and be channelled into the practical aspects of fulfilling its vision. The social architecture will be constructed through its reorganisation as a learning organisation in which each of its participants becomes a contributing learner.
In such a structure the leadership and the members are repositioned. The leaders are not permitted any pedestals and the learners are asked to step up to their responsibilities. The outcome will be a group of people with a shared philosophy who are able to work together to achieve effective outcomes.
John Maxwell suggests some of the following ideas if an environment is to be created that will encourage others to take hold of a vision:
- Come alongside them There are different levels of leadership that a leader can have. At the bottom level is designated authority. This is where people follow because of your assigned position and they have no choice. At the highest level is that of personhood/respect. At this level you have developed followers who are loyal and sacrificial. They are this way because they have seen you demonstrate sacrificial and loyal leadership to them.
- Paint a picture for them. This picture should set new horizons for the individuals in the organisation; it should give hope; it should be challenging; it should provide freedom; the journey is important; it should provide a path to the ultimate goal; they should be able to see your total commitment to the vision. (Maxwell,J)
- Put it into context . Shaller says that the most effective leaders are those that understand and adopt the values of the group that they join.
- There is a big difference between one’s personal vision and implementing a corporate vision. A personal vision will not change an organization and belongs to the leader alone. A leader must be able to rise above themselves and to see the future through other people’s perspective.