So, what’s the point of having a vision when you’re grappling with a crisis and focused on surviving day to day? It’s difficult to think about long-term goals when you have serious short-term challenges. But the fact is, a vision is still very important even in times like these. We need to chart a path forward even though uncertainty and ambiguity reign.
Leadership is about declaring a future others commit to follow and to do that we need a vision of the future. When I say vision, we typically have in mind a 3-5 year vision. You may be thinking, I don’t know what I am doing next week let alone in three years’ time.
If we don’t have a vision we aren’t leading
When the future isn’t clear we still need a vision. It might be for the next month or the next quarter. We need a north star to guide us and give everyone confidence we have a destination. This is especially true in the darkest times. Let me illustrate this with an example. Early in WWII, Britain was facing almost certain defeat. The English Channel was all that stood between them and the Nazi war machine that was conquering everything in front of it. The British people needed a vision, a path forward to believe in. Winston Churchill recognized the gravity of the situation and made one of his most famous speeches:
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering….You may ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory…however hard and long the road may be.”
Churchill did not know how Britain would achieve victory. His focus was on creating an unwavering vision that would inspire the country, give them confidence they would prevail.
As time progressed his vision evolved and he navigated a path forward to victory. It wasn’t a straight line. They had to figure it out as the future unfolded. Sometimes two steps forward and then one step backwards. Even as the path wasn’t always evident, the vision was always clear; no compromise, only victory.
We can learn a lot from Churchill’s leadership
While this example is dramatic, we can learn a lot from Churchill’s leadership about how to navigate the path forward in times of uncertainty:
• The vision was simple and easy to understand.
• The path wasn’t clear at all, still, the people needed to know their destination
• The vision and strategies to get there became much clearer and more detailed over time.
• The path forward evolved as the future unfolded.
At Oyster, we’re having numerous conversations with our clients about creating their vision in times of crisis. We are helping them chart the path forward amidst the pandemic. Let us know if we can help you.
Our next post will discuss how the best leaders communicate their vision.