The Importance of an Ennobling Vision

Vision is as crucial to leadership as a voice is to a singer. It is your song of the future. It defines the reason that you want to struggle for something you deem as valuable and noble. If shared with passion, conviction and emotional connection with others, a vision can bring together others who wish to struggle for the same aspirations.

One of the things you learn early on in working with The Leadership Challenge is that true leadership is of noble purpose. Leadership is not destructive, harmful or selfish. It is just one of those given truths that is core to the work, as true as saying that when the sun comes up the world lights up. And even though I know at my core this to be foundational truth, we have a lot of people that are called leaders who have done some terrible things. It’s had me perplexed for a while in how to explain to someone with that very question in my own words about why those who use power to cause harm are not in fact leaders even if they have followers. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

True leaders are brokers of hope. They have a vision of a virtuous future. They help us see and bring out what is best in all of us and help us have a hope for a future that will be better than today. True leaders make that bright future clear for us and give us the confidence that it can happen to mobilize us to act. According to Hope Theory (Snyder, 2000), hope is comprised of a Goal, the Pathways we imagine to our goal and Agency, or our belief in our ability to overcome barriers to obtain that goal. Leaders help us see through their vision to our own vision which helps us clarify our Pathways to achievement. And leaders, through their clarity and encouragement, increase our Agency, or help build our belief that we can have the future that we want.

False leaders can’t do that. False leaders, or a term that I think is very fitting, misleadershave followers because of the use of fear, scarcity or intimidation. They manipulate and use the darkest parts of us to make their future come to bear. These misleaders pray on the absence of hope. They may mobilize people and they may get them to struggle, but they never really get them to WANT to struggle. And that is the key difference.

To build our best future, it is important to understand that we can help others find their visions and hope by gaining clarity of our own ennobling vision of the future and sharing it with others. What has brought you joy in the past, and what would recreate that feeling for you in the future? A vision should be as clear as a memory in your head and your heart; it just hasn’t happened yet.

We all have the power to change a life and to make a difference. One of the most important things I we can do is help people imagine their own best futures and build each other up so everyone feels capable of being a part of the solution.

Leaders are brokers of hope.

Have some other thoughts of the differences between true leaders and misleaders? I am interested in hearing other perspectives on these differences and would appreciate your insights. Cheers and keep going!

Amanda Nelson

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