Drunk on Vision

In my line of work I hear a lot about the importance of vision-casting and vision-driven leadership. Some even argue that driving the vision of an organization is the primary job of a leader.

It is often said that vision leaks. Do you know what else leaks? Toilets.

Here’s the thing, vision has the potential and the power to influence leaders in an intoxicating manner. This is especially true with non-profit or health service industry leaders. After all, these leaders are typically called to their field, given a vision for changing lives, and set apart for the unique task of serving people. This creates the perfect venue for the reinforcement of the grandiose self, which includes both overt and covert narcissism. Although vision is an important factor of leadership, it may also manipulate leadership behaviors. If left unchecked, the unexamined passions of a leader may enslave followers via egocentric manipulation disguised as vision-casting. A covert narcissist may use a sense of calling and the vehicle of vision in order to reinforce his or her sense of self-importance. In this way, narcissism slowly creeps into the life of the leader until it controls every other aspect of the organization. Again, this is especially true in non-profit settings where key leaders may stand at the center of attention while simultaneously feigning humility and deflecting praise.

Although vision requires visionaries, it is important to keep a healthy perspective of what a healthy visionary looks like. A healthy visionary should at a minimum be humble, self-less, self-controlled, and capable of teaching and leading. By the way, a strong personality, charismatic charm, and the ability to draw a crowd are not always synonymous with health when it comes to vision. Humility, selflessness, and a servant’s posture? Yeah, those are right at the top of the list!

Do not get me wrong, the recent emphasis on vision and effective communication in leadership has helped several organizations deal with decline and stagnation on a numerical sense. Perhaps an emphasis on healthy visioneering and a better understanding of the intoxicating impact of vision may decrease the occurrences of ego driven ethical and moral failure amongst leaders.

Vision is a good thing, but it is not the only thing.

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