“The senior leaders have no vision,” he said glumly, as an explanation for his company’s problems.
I had heard this many times during my interviews of key employees at the company. It was the end of my last interview. I set my pen down and asked the question I had wondered about all day. “So what are you going to do about it?”
“Me?” he asked. “What can I do? I’m not in charge. I’m just the manager of shipping.”
I studied him for a moment before I replied. I could see he was frustrated and felt powerless.
“I know you think you can’t have a vision because the senior leaders don’t have one, but the truth is that senior leaders aren’t as ‘in charge’ as you think. And within your own sphere of influence, you have more control than you think.”
Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders. . ~Stephen Covey
The assumption that change has to start at the top is wrong.
According to management guru Peter Senge, “The first step in building shared vision is to give up traditional notions that visions are always announced from ‘on high’ or come from an organization’s institutionalized planning process.”
Michael Beer of Harvard Business School agrees. “Managers don’t have to wait for senior management to start a process of organizational revitalization.”
While it’s true that eventually an initiative must be leader supported, it can begin anywhere in an organization. There is a lot managers can do without support from the top.
Take responsibility to provide leadership within your own sphere of influence.
Leadership is more than just good management practices. In Full Steam Ahead, Ken Blanchard and I say, “Leadership is about going somewhere.”
Where do you want to go? Where do you want to take your team? The best way to find out is to involve them.
Gather your team to discuss these questions:
- What is our purpose? What is the value of the service we provide? What business are we really in?
- What would we look like if we were magnificent at fulfilling our purpose?
- What would we accomplish? What results would we see?
- What would our relationships look like? With each other on the team and with other departments? How would we work together? What would be happening and not be happening?
Dream together about what could be before you jump to specific action. You will make better decisions about how to proceed because you will have access to the best thinking of everyone on your team.
As your sphere of influence begins to sparkle, you’ll notice the sparkle begin to spread.
If one flower can flourish in the midst of a bed of rocks, others can also.