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Monday, June 5, 2017

The Importance of Establishing a Shared Vision

In almost any situation there are leaders and there are followers. Both positions are equally important, but to be a leader who makes a difference, you need to be able to see the bigger picture in whatever you’re doing.

Whether you’re just earning a living, doing the best at your job or trying to leave an imprint on the world, there is huge value in seeing the big picture. But seeing the big picture sometimes isn’t enough. True leadership must have a combination of seeing that big picture and also helping others to see it as well.

The following story illustrates this idea:

One day a traveler, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing.

"I am cutting a stone!" Still no wiser the traveler turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing.

“I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall."

A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveler turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied:

“I am building a cathedral.”

All three stonecutters were doing the same thing, but each gave a very different answer. Each knew how to do his job but what was it that set the third stonecutter apart? Perhaps:

Knowing not just how and what to do, but knowing why.
Viewing the whole and not just its parts.
Seeing a vision, a sense of the bigger picture.
Having the ability to see significance in work, beyond the obvious.
Understanding that a legacy will live on, whether in the stone of a cathedral, or in the impact made on other people.

As Peter Senge put it: the responsibility of a leader is not just to share a vision but to build a shared vision.

The traditional approach to creating a vision for the organization has largely failed in most organizations because employees have been unable to connect with the vision developed by management. Building shared vision requires daily effort by managers. It must be a central part of their work.

Shared vision is an essential component of a learning organization because it provides the focus and energy for learning. The underlying force is the desire by people to create and accomplish something.

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