Some things just work better together.
In these examples, each item has value in and of itself. Yet combined, the pairs take on a more striking, pleasurable and powerful quality. The same holds true for vision and strategy: leaders who are able to master both and leverage them with their teams will drive unbeatable results.
But many managers and supervisors find they might be talented or effective at one and struggle with the other… which makes perfect sense. The two tasks require very different skill sets.
Vision is at the core of— and for many, synonymous with—leadership. It involves formulating a clear and compelling picture of the future. It’s about drafting a dream and a direction that inspires others to follow and excel at what they do. A highly effective vision turns a statement of purpose into a reason for people to get out of bed every morning.
But, it’s not enough to merely create a vision. Vision is nothing more than words on the page until it’s communicated in a way that creates enthusiasm, a visceral sense of involvement, and a palpable urge to take action. This demands that leaders possess the ability to communicate clearly, influence others and tap into what matters to individuals. In fact, vision goes beyond painting the big picture to helping others paint themselves into it. It goes beyond words to actions (large and small) that telegraph what’s most important.
So, being able to instill vision is an enormous task and competency all by itself. And, here’s the rub. Operationalizing that vision with strategy is an equally enormous task, and one that demands some very different competencies.
Strategy is all about establishing the direction, goals, objectives, actions, and measures required to make things happen. Whereas vision development is qualitative, strategy development is quantitative. Strategy focuses on establishing forward momentum toward the vision by orchestrating and sequencing the activities of the team. And, when done well, it builds the kind of accountability that leads to results. These skills and abilities are very different from those required to establish vision.
Strategy supports vision by connecting the dots between today and tomorrow; vision supports strategy by providing a unified focus on an energizing future. Vision without strategy is just a nice idea; and strategy without vision might be a lot of unproductive activity. Both strategy and vision are critical.
As a result, managers and supervisors must cultivate the very different skills required of these two complementary and synergistic leadership responsibilities. Because vision without strategy is a lot like paint with no brush, Batman with no Robin… and an organization without leadership.