The importance of articulating your personal leadership vision


Those who have worked with me closely know that I am somewhat obsessive about my “little pink book”.  From time to time I lose the book and frantically scurry about the office in desperate search of it.  This pink book holds all of my daily notes and action items, but most importantly it holds my clearly articulated vision for what I strive to be as a leader.  Inside the front cover of the book is taped a tattered collage that over the years has moved book to book as I fill one pink book and move on to the next.

Many years ago I determined that I was going to write down all of the thoughts I had in my head about what makes a good leader and I would strive to be all of those things. During my growth as an actual leader of people, I began to realize that trying to be all things to all people wasn’t good for any of us. That is when I determined I was better off to clearly define what I, personally, wanted to be as a leader and work hard on becoming that.  I say “work hard on becoming that” because most times what we want to be as leaders is aspirational and on any given day, we are NOT that….just ask our teams!  The amazing thing about the human existence is that each day we get a new opportunity to reach our goals, including those of becoming the type of leader that any team would love to have.

There is a subtle but distinct difference between doing a lot of thinking and soul searching to determine the type of leader you want to be and precisely writing it down.  What clearly articulating my leadership vision did was allow me to give my teams the keys to the kingdom on the type of leader I was trying to be, and remarkably gave me the internal courage to ask them to hold me accountable to being that. I also find that with my leadership vision articulated in writing in the front of a book that I carry around with me religiously all day every day, I am much more willing to share my leadership learning freely with colleagues and engage in conversations about what they would like to be as leaders and how I might support them in reaching their goals.

In my pink book, my leadership collage holds pieces of inspiration from many places, including but not limited to:

  • Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership- Patient, Kind, Trusting, Unselfish, Truthful, Forgiving, Dedicated
  • Lee Iacocca- “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team”
  • Cesar Millan- who talks extensively about “pack leadership” techniques, which is more about the leader than those in the pack (or in human terms, the team)
  • Robby Sisco (an amazing HR leader that I had the privilege of being able to watch and follow for over a decade)- “Who else needs to know”
  • Cinderella, yes the princess- “Have the courage to be kind”
  • And some tidbits of my own genesis that I have added along the way

To me, the best thing about clearly articulating my leadership vision and committing to it in writing is that it gives me the opportunity to evolve as a leader in an intentional way.  It also allows me to see how far I’ve come, defining the things that may need to be added to my vision and identifying those items that have become ineffective and should be removed.

I will never forget an interaction I had with the members of the first team I ever led as I was getting ready to exit the organization I had been with for nearly 20 years.  I went back to thank the members of the original team for their patience with me way back then, and to beg their forgiveness.  If only they could have experienced the type of leader I have become…..better, but still a work in progress.

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