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You and I can only ‘live the vision’ if we know what that vision is.

If you are anything like me, you have a general vision of how you think life, work etc should turn out but you haven’t articulated it clearly to yourself.

Recently my mentor got me to write down my vision and the practical implications of achieving it. He suggested a four-layered approach.

1. 5-years from now. For most of us, 5 years is far enough away that we can dream bigger dreams. Let it be idealistic. Don’t start with saying ‘Ican’t do that’ but rather by saying ‘I would love to…..’  I included ideals about work, family, church, personal and friendship.

2. The next 2-3 years. We find it easier to see 2-3 years ahead. This layer allows us to think more realistically about how we achieve the 5 years vision. What are some of the things that you will need to accomplish in the next 2-3 years that will help take you closer to your 5-year ideal. So for example, if in 5 years time you wanted to be a rock star then the 2-3 year plan would be to have done x-number of gigs in x-number of places.

3. This years objectives. The third layer is then fine-tuning the 2-3 year plan into some SMART objectives. So if you want to be able to gig somewhere, you might start with 1. Learn how to play 6 chords by the end of May. 2. Learn how to sing in tune by the end of June. You may be slightly more advanced than that (I like to think I am), in which case you would have objectives such as 1. Write 5 songs in the next 5 months. 2. Contact 5 local gig venues and agree dates to play.

4. Break it down! The final layer is breaking down your objectives so that you are setting aside time in your diary to ensure you accomplish those objectives. So if you need to write 5 songs in 5 months you need to decide how much time you set aside for that. In my case, my objective for the year is to be able to play more than one song from memory. In order to achieve that I think I can realistically learn one song a week. This, I think, will only require me to practice the chosen song every evening for 10 minutes.

These 4 layers of vision have really helped me to think big and live that vision in a practical day-to-day manner. Hope you find them helpful too.

A few years ago, my wife and I went to Barcelona for a long weekend. We decided that we would go on one of the bicycle tours . Although it knocked us out for the next three days (we’re super-fit like that), we thoroughly enjoyed it. The tour guide was funny, knew where he was going, the safest way to get there and had lots of interesting facts to tell us.

Now consider if I landed in Barcelona, decided to set up a bicycle tour company that afternoon, found a few unsuspecting tourists and away we go. I would’ve been a leader for all of about 3 minutes until they realised that I actually had no vision i.e. I didn’t know where I was taking them or how to get there.

When I consider the word ‘vision’ it sounds so much like 90’s management speak. And yes, it has been thrown around to the point of being cliché and almost meaningless.

But hopefully that delightful bicycle tour story shows that vision is just as important today as when someone first caught onto the idea and wrote a book about it.

Clay Lowe suggests Live the Vision is the first cornerstone of good leadership.

Firstly, you need to have a clear and compelling vision. This can be applied in your corporate and personal life. What is the vision that you have for your team, department, company, charity, family? Where are you headed? How will you know when you get there? Consider La Sagrada Familia on the left. If Gaudi wasn’t clear as to what he was trying to achieve, that incredible church would probably not be there, or look very confused.

Tomorrow we will look at three steps to help you develop a clear and compelling vision and to live the vision.

Many thanks to those on LinkedIn who contributed your suggestions to what you think the cornerstones of leadership might be. You can read the excellent and interesting answers here.

There isn’t a any hard-and-fast rule of what the cornerstones of good leadership are and one could easily include more than four! 

The 4 cornerstones of leadership that we will look at over the next few days are described by Clay Lowe. He’s had a wealth of experience from leadership in the US Army, to now taking people on leadership development courses up Snowdon.

When I first heard these I was inspired by their simplicity in terms of remembering them but also in applying them. They are:

1. Live the Vision

2. Set Standards

3. Have Humility (!)

4. Make Decisions

We will look at each one of those briefly over the next few posts.

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