"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."
Often attributed to Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, but its exact origins, such as the specific date or location when he said or wrote it, are not widely documented.
THE MEAT (The Main Idea)
Leadership is a vital skill that requires a clear and compelling vision. As quoted, "The very essence of leadership is that you have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." This metaphor highlights the importance of guiding and inspiring others with certainty and confidence, as wavering in one's direction can lead to a lack of trust and commitment from followers. An uncertain trumpet call can cause confusion and misdirection, leaving followers feeling lost and unsure of the way forward. In leadership, uncertainty and hesitation toward decision-making can impede progress and cause setbacks. A good leader knows where they're headed and can confidently and clearly guide their team toward success. It's like they're shining a light in the dark, showing everyone the way forward. When a leader communicates a clear vision well, it brings people together and makes them feel optimistic about what they can achieve and confident in how to get there.
THE CHEESE (Added Depth)
As the summer sun shines down, and teachers are working hard on their tans, school leaders are hard at work creating a plan for the upcoming school year. Developing a vision for the future is a crucial part of this plan, as it provides a goal for educators to strive towards together.
My pastor, Mark Rouse of Epic Church, described this vision as "a preferred future you are working toward." I love this definition. It's clear and concise. A well-crafted vision statement acts as a compass, guiding a school toward success and providing direction. But sitting down and crafting a vision for the year can be hard and should never be done in a silo. To create a clear and compelling vision, here are some steps and ingredients to crafting a clear vision:
Step 1: Reflect on Core Values and Mission. Start by reflecting on the school's core values and mission. Consider the school's purpose, beliefs, and principles that guide its daily operations and educational philosophy. A strong vision should align with and reinforce these foundational elements. If you don’t have core values, you definitely should start there. What are the reasons you come to work? What makes your school different from others?
Step 2: Involve the School Community. A vision that truly resonates with the school community should involve input from various stakeholders, including teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members. Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, and engage in open discussions to gather diverse perspectives and insights. By involving everyone in the process, the resulting vision will be more representative of the school as a whole. Encourage participants to share their aspirations for the school's future. What positive changes and improvements do they envision? Identify common themes and goals that emerge from these discussions to form the basis of the vision.
Step 3: Define Success Indicators. Establish clear indicators of success that align with the vision to ensure progress and accountability. These could be academic metrics, student well-being measures, or community engagement targets. Whatever they are, you have to make sure they are clearly defined and understood.
Step 4: Integrate with Strategy. Integrate the vision with the school's strategic planning. Develop actionable steps and initiatives that align with the vision and contribute to its realization. Create a roadmap for implementation, assigning responsibilities and timelines. Remember, the school leader doesn’t, nor shouldn’t be the sole person developing and implementing these steps. Involve your leadership and school-based teams.
Ingredient 5: Communicate and Reinforce. Share the vision with the entire school community through multiple channels. Regularly communicate progress and celebrate milestones achieved. Keep the vision alive through ongoing reinforcement and engagement.
Ingredient 6: Adapt and Evolve. A vision is not static; it should be reviewed and updated periodically to adapt to changing circumstances and evolving needs. Embrace quarterly feedback and make necessary adjustments to keep the vision relevant and impactful. By following these steps, school leaders can create a vision that not only inspires but also serves as a unifying force, rallying the entire school community to work collaboratively toward a brighter and more successful future.
THE OLIVES (A Surprising Element)
Now, let's explore the concept of "vision" not merely as a written plan, but as sight itself. Not only am I an educator, consultant, and coach, but I also have a photography side hustle. Capturing people’s pictures in a way that makes them smile simply brings joy to my life. Just like a skilled photographer requires ample light to capture a great picture, visionary leaders need clarity of sight to navigate their days.
As a photographer myself, I've experienced the significance of light firsthand. During one outdoor family shoot, a series of unforeseen events caused us to start late, leaving us with rapidly fading natural light. The result? Blurry and grainy pictures, despite my best efforts to salvage them through editing. The lack of light proved to be a major hindrance, rendering my pictures unusable. A photographer's nightmare. Now, let's equate darkness to fear and uncertainty, and light to clarity. In the presence of darkness, fear takes hold, and uncertainty clouds our judgment, much like the dark, grainy, unusable pictures. Conversely, when bathed in light, fear dissipates, and courage takes root, just as well-lit photos showcase vivid clarity.
The importance of a clear vision, even when the road ahead is uncharted, is like being the light in the dark. A well-illuminated vision provides a plan when uncertainty arises, revealing a path forward. When the plan is known the purpose then also becomes clear. Just as a skilled photographer uses light to capture the beauty of a moment, a clear vision, bathed in light, becomes the guiding force that propels us toward a future with a clear target.
In the words of Father Hesburgh, "You can't blow an uncertain trumpet," we must embody the clarity of light, banishing doubt and fear, and instead, radiate the courage and certainty that inspire our teams. By doing so, we pave the way for our teams to venture with confidence, united in a shared vision, and driven toward success. Just as a well-lit photograph captures the beauty of a moment with crispness, a clear vision becomes the guiding force that propels us toward a future of endless possibilities.