There is no shortage of literature about leadership. Similarly, there is a plethora of material of why leaders must have a vision. It is with some reticence, then, that I attempt to add a meaningful contribution to the discussion. What I am offering is more of an abbreviated synthesis of the existing literature, plus a modest dose of my own experience.
We know the critical importance of vision to the health of any church or other organization. It is possible to look at the components that comprise a healthy vision. For simplicity, I have noted five components, each beginning with the letter "C."
Brevity can be a relative term. However, a healthy vision statement must be understood and articulated by everyone in the organization. People rarely embrace long and wieldy vision statements.
Brevity is not synonymous with clarity. A vision statement can be brief and yet muddled at the same time. When it comes to casting a vision, lack of clarity may be the single greatest failure. Though it’s not a vision statement, the simple system to evaluate diamonds provides a good example of this. Their four Cs—cut, carat, clarity, and color—help diamond neophytes like me grasped the fundamentals of a good diamond. A good vision statement will provide simple but powerful clarity.
A vision statement can be concise and clear, but unless a leader communicates it well, it will contain little power. Leaders must continually seek to become more effective communicators. Many potentially-powerful visions have fallen on deaf ears because a leader failed to communicate it well, either verbally or in writing.
If the vision statement does not encourage or excite people to a greater goal, it is likely not compelling. You should be able to see clearly in the vision statement something that will naturally move people toward greater commitment and decisive actions.
The vision statement should be something that makes people within the organization proud. It should serve as a recruiting tool to bring others into the organization. There should be something about the vision statement that fosters conversation and excitement. A healthy vision statement should be contagious.
Of course, these five categories are not mutually exclusive. Any one of the "C’s" obviously impacts the other. If I were forced to rank them in levels of importance, I would deem "clear" as the most important element. Clarity seems to be the area where I struggle the most. It also the area for which I get more questions from other leaders than any other topic.
An organization will struggle to move forward if it does not hear clearly from the leader where it should go. In that sense, an unclear vision statement can actually do more harm than no vision statement at all.
Thomas Rainer is the president and CEO LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of nearly two dozen books.
Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 24 books, including his upcoming release, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church + 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive.”
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