07 May, 2015 Chapter 2


Vision is one of the most important topics in leadership. Things rise and fall with vision.

When the vision of a group or organisation is clear and alive, the members will be motivated. When the plan is the logical application of a clear and practical vision, the members will be made effective! However, when the vision is not clear, or the plan is not clearly linked to the vision, focus becomes dissipated, discouragement will set in, and lethargy will result. These are some of the most simple, but significant lessons in leadership.

Before you read the rest of this chapter, grade yourself in this simple quiz.

Your leadership quiz

1. Do your team members know what you are trying to achieve together?         /10

2. Do they know why you are doing it?        /10

3. Do they understand how you are seeking to accomplish it?         /10

4. Have they bought into this such that they will sacrifice for it?         /10

5. If you were to leave, would they continue with it?          /10

Total:                /50

How to sell a clear vision

a. The vision must be clear and compelling

It is the role of the leader to know what the vision is, and to be able to ‘sell’ it to others.

When the vision of a group… is clear and alive, the members will be motivated. When the plan is the logical application of the vision… the members will be made effective!

If we find difficulty in expressing the visions we have clearly and with compelling passion, we are not really ready to lead yet. A lot of genuinely good work can be done with aimless (or youthful) passion, but we can be made much more effective if we can learn to focus our energy toward the most important things. Having a clear vision is about knowing what is most important, and why. It helps us focus our limited time, and enables us to lead. It’s worth giving some time to. What do you want to accomplish, and why?

b. The vision must be alive in the leader

We can only convince others of what we are first convinced of ourselves. When we try to motivate people toward a goal — no matter how worthy that goal might be — if we are not truly passionate about it ourselves, our success in motivating others will be limited. They will read our insincerity. As such, the power of a vision comes from the inner life of the leader.

To sell a vision we must first actually have a vision, and believe in it!

A group will not necessarily be strong based on the merits of its vision. Rather, groups become strong based on the ability of the leader to communicate the merits of the vision to the team members. Vision casting is a big deal! Having, selling and leading in a vision is what leadership is all about!

…our talk, dreaming and brain-storming will amount to zero if we don't have the discipline and belief to follow them through. But if we do, it is possible to accomplish greater things than many might at first imagine!

This thus brings us back to the importance of our call to ministry, and of our personal relationships with God. The Holy Spirit stirs the vision (love for others) in us, and this will most likely happen as we reflect upon the Scriptures and pray for the people and ministries we lead.

c. The vision must be sold

Should we succeed in having a clear and compelling vision that we are personally truly convicted about, we will be ready for our next challenge – ‘selling’ that vision such that others will buy into it like we do.

Some people negatively associate selling a vision with secular marketing. Jesus and the Apostles had no qualms about asking would-be followers to give up everything for the vision they preached. We should preach our vision with no less passion (for it’s the same vision). A vision is not something to be communicated only through announcements, or written on stationery and T-shirts. If it is really our vision then we should preach it, and preach it regularly. It should be our primary subject.

With regard to selling a vision, I note a few things:

› CREATIVITY is very helpful — If you promote a vision often, whether through announcements or sermons, the promotion can start to feel dry and mundane. They’ve heard it before. We thus need to keep stirring the vision in our own hearts as leaders so as to find creative ways to keep it fresh for those we lead. In truth a worthy vision can never be promoted too much. Fresh passion and creativity are, however, necessary in its communication.

› ‘TWICE AS OFTEN’ — The rule of thumb I once heard (source unknown) was this: “When you think you have sold a vision enough times, you’ve said it only half as much as you need to.” It takes time for people to ‘get’ things. So, if we want them to really ‘get’ it, we’re going to need to keep saying it. It is the role of the leader to make sure the vision stays continuously before the members’ eyes.

› PREACH YOUR VISION REGULARLY — Your vision should be important. If it is, then it is worthy of being talked about from your ‘pulpit’ — so preach it! Many leaders fail to regularly make their vision the topic of their sermons. Whatever the reason for this, from a leadership perspective, it makes no sense.

› PREACH THE ANNOUNCEMENTS — Announcements are not just the passing on of information, they are the opportunity to sell the vision of your ministry. We should view our announcement times as an opportunity! Use that time to sell the PURPOSE behind all you are doing. Use that time to share your belief, and to inspire theirs. At times, I have added quarterly goals to announcements to encourage faith-based action in certain areas we want to see growth in, such as devotional lives, faithfulness in fellowship, or faithfulness in outreach. I found that ‘preaching’ our purposes through the announcements bore fruit.

› TALK ABOUT IT WITH YOUR LEADERS ALWAYS — At every leaders meeting, find a way to bring up your vision, and to encourage faith in it. Their belief in the vision is the key to their motivation for the plan (what they have to do on a weekly basis).

We can only convince others of what we are first convinced of ourselves.

d. The vision must be made practical

One of the greatest pitfalls of leadership is for a great vision to remain as words, but lacking the right, necessary action. Sometimes a practical plan is never put into place. The vision is never taken to its logical next steps so as to be accomplished. And then, sometimes, there is a great plan, but it not followed through because ‘new’ and more exciting visions distract the leader. This is where I believe strategic planning is so important.

Strategic planning is a skill that we develop over time, but the idea of it is very simple: Seek to work out all the practical steps needed to take a group to their given destination (the fulfilment of your groups vision and goal). Then develop the discipline and character needed to follow it through. In other words, work out the logically needed steps, then plan your next few years, putting the needed steps you can envisage at that time into your calendar, in the hope that they might actually be done, so the vision actually does become more than mere words.

The strategic plan is still less than half the battle though, because even our talk, dreaming and brain-storming will amount to zero if we don’t have the discipline and belief to follow them through. But if we do, it is possible to accomplish greater things than many might at first imagine! This has been my exciting discovery as I have grown in leadership.

We could summarise this with this poem:

A vision without a plan is a dream.
A plan without a vision is a drudgery.
But a vision with a plan is a destiny!
(source unknown)

For example, you want your group to be more outreach orientated. How about brain-storming the ways you could do that. Then consider which of the suggested ideas you could accomplish in the coming year, and what ideas might be better put aside for another time. Maybe you could then draft what an ‘ideal year’ might look like on a 12-month calendar, considering what might need doing at each stage. I’m sure you’re getting the idea. What I have found in doing this is that when we lacked the discipline to follow the plans we came up with, we achieved very little. But when we did follow the plans, many of them actually worked. It’s a surprising thing. Groups can change. People can change. Things can change! It’s called leadership, and it actually works! When we serve the plan we serve the vision!

Members of any group or organisation need to be helped by their leaders to see what they need to actually do so as to fulfil the vision of their group. When we as leaders help them see what to do, they can apply themselves to it and accomplish great things. Through faith based directional action the goal can be accomplished. If the action is not directional, it is my observation that the influence of the leader is significantly lessened, often irrespective of their faith and zeal.

It needs noting, however, that God sometimes likes to ‘mess up’ our great plans, taking us in seeming illogical directions — such as with Gideon going to battle with just 300 men. However, these are the exception not the rule. The principle is that our hearts must first be submitted to God, and our plans submitted in prayer. But we still need the plans. To fail to plan really is to plan to fail. God expects us to use the abilities He has given us — and this includes the ability to learn . We can learn leadership! If we do not, our influence will usually be lessened!

› BRAIN STORM WITH YOUR LEADERS — Include your members too if your group is smaller. Let them discuss what you want to accomplish, why, and how. In the process you will (a) help them ‘rediscover’ the vision, (b) help them see how they can bring it about, and (c) gain some valuable insights yourself from their various inputs.

› GET LEADERS TO ARTICULATE THE VISION — The better our leaders can articulate the vision, the better they will be at selling it in their own ‘announcement’ times in their small groups or ministry team meetings. Spend time getting them to practice this at leaders meetings (but make it fun). Then find a way to get the same happening with your members!

GET LEADERS TO ARTICULATE THE PLAN — It follows that the better they can comprehend the smaller steps needed so as to accomplish the overarching goals, the better they will also be at convincing others to apply themselves to the needed action steps!

Basically, the more our leaders and members know the more they will be motivated.

By raising our leaders clarity of thought regarding the vision and plan, we lift their leadership level.

By raising their leadership level, we better position ourselves to successfully lead our group toward their visions, and our own role becomes both increasingly easy, and more enjoyable too!

As we mature as leaders the size of the visions we can accomplish also grows bigger. A beginner may organise a small group event to lead members. A person mid way along might prepare a discipleship strategy spanning twelve months, leading lower level leaders, and may have the vision and discipline to pull it off. At the far end of the scale, we might develop the vision, perspective and faith to work toward goals that take many years to accomplish, and yet to do so with unwavering faith and focus, successfully inspiring a whole group of high level leaders to take the long journey with us. That’s the real stuff of leadership!

e. The vision must be kept alive

Many times our ministries have very worthy visions that are sold well, and have practical action plans that yield great initial fruit — its just that the vision gets lost.

When I started in one ministry I discovered documents outlining the vision for the ministry. These had been detailed by those who had led it a number of years before I did. Their vision was not really being accomplished. It was a good vision! So, rather than coming up with a new vision, I decided to revive the old one. I thus re-presented it, and sought to position the group to fulfil it, as I could see it and believed in it.

We need to get past pursuing new things to pursuing worth while things. Keeping a vision alive is the task of the real leader.

An important side-note here is to note that that sometimes leaders think we need to keep re-inventing vision, changing mission statements, changing vision statements, changing names, and all sorts of other things. It is true that such changes have their place. They can help ‘jump start’ a new freshness in a vision or ministry (repackaging an old product). They can be useful as a growth agent in the early stages of a group. However, sometimes I wonder if some leaders do new things because they haven’t learnt how to sustain the passion in the older things. They haven’t worked at learning how to keep a vision alive as the leader, and so they take the easy way out and launch a new vision, banking on some positive momentum from the launch of the ‘exciting new thing’. This early-stage momentum feels great. But how many times can you launch a ‘new thing’? And a key question; When will something you launch be worth actually sustaining? Do you see what I’m getting at? We want to disciple people to be faithful in serving God’s purpose, but we keep moving the ‘target’ through presenting new visions. Sometimes a worthy vision already exists. Good leadership brings that vision to new life, and sustains it!

The challenge is that the vibrancy of a vision in a group ultimately reflects the vibrancy of the vision in the leader. This is a responsibility we must accept. To ‘succeed’ as spiritual leaders we need to dig deep enough in God to not only have a vision, but to sustain it. This is the real stuff of leadership, and where the greatest fruitfulness will come from. Believing in a vision enough to sustain it is the true test of our leadership, and of our character ! And that is the point!

There are few short-cuts in leadership. If we want to see the ‘results’ we have to be willing to pay the price! Things have a way of rising and falling on vision — and vision is what leadership is all about!

INVOLVE OTHERS IN VISION CASTING — Sometimes a vision can be helped to become fresh again, or more meaningfully felt, when someone other than ourselves (as the key leader) expresses it. The change in wording and personality in the presentation can be really effective — so long as the person really does believe in it.

LISTEN OFTEN AND CAREFULLY — Sometimes the momentum of a vision is lost because team members have become frustrated by something, or there is a problem of some sort that is pulling their focus from the important vision. It is through asking good questions, and listening carefully, that we are positioned to discover these hindrances, so we can get into action and wisely remove them. We can thus set them free to run again. But note, we may occasionally have to ‘eat some humble pie’ if we are to deal with the issues, for sometimes the issue really will be with us!

CELEBRATE THE SUCCESSES — One of the best ways to add fuel to a vision is to celebrate the successes along the way. This helps everyone not only be reminded of the vision, but to see it as something that is possible, practical (for their involvement), and ultimately achievable.

ENCOURAGE THE SMALL THINGS — Like complex machinery, large visions are made up of many small parts. If we can make a habit of encouraging everyone we see doing an excellent job in the small things around us, this ‘good oiling’ will help the whole thing run in good health! Encouraging people both focus’ them and motivates them!

DIG INTO YOUR HEART — So, why are you doing what you do? Why have you not given up? What do you dream of seeing? Freshness in these thoughts is from the fuel for being able to inspire others!

In conclusion:

Ultimately Jesus is our role model for leadership. He had a vision of the Kingdom of God, and He believed in it wholeheartedly. He preached it with passion. He demonstrated the path toward it with His life. He called people to uncompromising commitment toward it. He equipped and released His followers to imitate His example in working toward it, and He encouraged them all the way.

If there ever were a vision we needed to believe it, it is the vision of healthy and growing local Churches, for this is Gods vision in our time! What you do is important, and that you do it well (rallying your people wholeheartedly to it) really is important!

If you are the leader, you are the vision carrier.

You can make a difference!

Link your arms with Gods, and carry that vision!

Something to reflect upon

1. How clear is your vision to you?

2. How important is this vision to you?

3. Do your team and members believe in the vision? (What is their buy-in like?)

4. How have you, and could you, seek to sell the vision to your team?

5. What new creative means could you employ in selling it?

6. How clear is your plan?

7. Do your members understand the plan and how it accomplishes the vision?

8. Do they believe in the plan? (What is their buy-in like with regard to the action steps?)

9. Do they know their first task?

10. Do they feel free and released to take their first steps?

11. Do your team members feel encouraged in the vision? How could you encourage them?

12. Can you see that any members are discouraged or weary? How could you personally appreciate or encourage them in the coming weeks so as to re-inspire their belief or to encourage their hearts?

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