Leaders Must Have Vision

When leaders lead, they need to have a vision of what can be and should be done. John Maxwell is the modern leadership guru who has written a lot of books. In The 360 Degree Leader, Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization, he has a section on vision where he says it the key to successful navigation. The more you invest in the vision, the more it becomes your own. People respond to a vision is different ways:

  1. Some attack it: with criticism and sabotage mainly because they did not create it or even understand it, so they don’t agree to work with it.They feel unneeded to achieve it and they aren’t ready for it.
  2. Some ignore it: they do their own thing.
  3. Some abandon it: they leave the organization.
  4. Some adapt it: by finding ways to align with the vision.
  5. Some champion it: they take the leader’s vision and make it a reality.
  6. Some add value to it: the vision becomes something more than originally anticipated. It is rare but not impossible to add value to the vision.

Another Maxwell book is The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Become the Person People will Want to Follow, he mentions vision as quality 21. “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” Vision leads the leader, it’s that important. It sparks and fuels the fire within.

  1. Vision starts from within: you can’t borrow someone else’s vision; and you must draw on natural passions and abilities.
  2. Vision draws on your history: key events in your past are instrumental in creating vision.
  3. Vision meets other’s needs: vision is far-reaching and does more than include others, it adds value to them.
  4. Vision helps you gather resources: it is the magnet that attracts others, challenging and uniting them.

The more challenging the vision, the more winners it will attract, and the harder the participants will fight to achieve it. Check out this familiar Bible verse:

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. (Proverbs 29:18)

Robert Fritz wrote, “It is not what a vision is; it’s what a vision does.” It is active. Vision is the ability to see. Helen Keller was asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?”She said, “Yes, having eyesight but no vision!”

Leaders imagine a preferred future, which is the essence of vision. Vision is the image of the compelling future God wants to create through you. Leaders can stand up and say this is where we are going.

I read about Mike Vance who tells of being at Walt Disney World soon after its completion when someone said, “It’s too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this.” Vance replied, “He DID see it—that’s why it’s here.”

So, what kind of vision do you have?

Myopic vision: Leaders with myopic vision are so nearsighted that they live only for today. Their vision of the future is fuzzy. They can barely see beyond their noses.

Peripheral vision: Leaders with peripheral vision are blindsided by side issues. These visionaries are hampered in moving forward because they catch the threatening images of lurking problems in the corners of their eyes. They are fearful of shadowy difficulties and people lurking on the sidelines who will defeat their efforts. These folks are easily distracted.

Tunnel vision: Leaders with tunnel vision see only what’s dead ahead of them and assume that their narrow view of reality reflects the whole world. They don’t see other people or other issues.

Panoramic vision: Leaders with panoramic vision see the big picture. They see beyond today. They see what is ahead of them. They see what is to the sides of them. They have a basic understanding of the key ingredients of a healthy organization and know the steps that it will take to get them there.

Vision is perhaps the greatest need of leadership today. How’s your vision? Without it the church or your company will be like an unbridled horse. With it the organization will be focused, moving toward the fulfillment of the dream.

Leadership and Wisdom

After the Word of God was growing and prevailing Ephesus (Acts 19:20) Paul decided that he needed to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Acts 19:21). While in Ephesus, the Emperor Claudius was poisoned and the Empire fell into the hands of a 16-year-old boy named Nero (in AD 54). It’s almost like Paul needed to witness to the new Emperor; maybe he thought it would be a great opportunity to change the Empire.

Paul was used by God in a mighty way and the enemy would not give up without a fight, so Paul encountered more trouble before he left Ephesus (Acts 19:21, 23). We are also told that Paul was again alone, having sent Erastus and Timothy into Macedonia (Acts 19:22).

It was normally the Jews causing Paul grief, but we read of two Gentile groups rising up against him: in Philippi (Acts 16:16-19) and here in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). It seems the gospel was a threat to the local idol making industry (Acts 19:24-25). Paul was hurting their trade and needed to be stopped; reasoning that he was robbing Artemis of her majesty (Acts 19:27). She was believed to be the daughter of Zeus and her temple was in Ephesus (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world). The silversmiths had made little statues in her likeness so I believe that these businessmen cared little about her majesty and more about their profits. The gospel and Paul were bad for business.

There was a town hall gathering in the theater in Ephesus and a couple believers are dragged to the meeting (Acts 19:29). Paul wanted to go there and speak to the crowd but his friends persuaded him not to go (Acts 19:30). Sometimes Paul had more passion and courage than sense. What I like here is that the disciples were not afraid to disagree with the apostle; Paul did not surround himself with yes-men and they had the freedom to speak their minds. Paul let the wisdom of others take priority over his own desires. He was not only a preacher and teacher but Paul was a good discussion leader (Acts 19:9). It is my observation that leaders who are afraid of others disagreeing with them leave little room for discussion. I am encouraged by leaders who do not think they always have to be right.

Not only did the friends of Paul not want him to go tho the theater, the city officials begged him not to go (Acts 19:31). Then the Jews got a man named Alexander to stir up the crowd chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for about two hours (Acts 19:34), which is an odd thing for the Jews to do… to encourage the practice of idolatry (Exodus 20:3-4).

A little history: the people believed that Artemis had fallen to earth in the form of a meteor, like a multibreasted woman, who was proclaimed as the patron deity of childbirth. After a little research, I discovered she was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; often depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. I am still amazed at what people will believe; sort of like believing that we all evolved from primordial muck by chance over time. It takes more faith to believe this universe just happened by accident than to believe in a divine creation. The universe is way to complex for there not to be an Intelligent Designer behind it all. Paul brought the message that the Messiah came down from the Father who offers everlasting life to those who believe; a much more believable story than a goddess falling as a rock from space.

Application: How many men today have another man beside them to guide them along life’s journey? Men who will speak truth to them, to help them avoid danger and temptation? How many of us are as passionate as Paul, compelled with a mission that must be accomplished? How many of us who are in leadership are humble enough to listen to others? Are we ever strong enough to admit, and even confess, that we were wrong? To our employees, our wives, our children? Do you surround yourself with yes-men or those who will challenge you and speak the truth to you in love?

Vision, Planning and Growth

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word vision refers to “imaginative foresight.” This foresight is absolutely necessary for a leader, both for the group they serve as well as for themselves personally. Without vision, we cannot see the end from the beginning; then we need to make incremental steps toward reaching the desired goal. Otherwise, the best-case scenario involves the leader spinning in circles.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. — Proverbs 16:9

Consider the story of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez. In August of 1982, only a few days after moving to a new home outside of town, he jumped into his car and headed to the stadium for a game he was scheduled to start. While on the freeway, he began looking for something resembling the downtown skyline. Three hours later, he still didn’t see the stadium! It turned out that Perez didn’t know the correct exit to take off of Interstate 285, a circular bypass around Atlanta. As a result, he literally drove in circles around Atlanta, finally getting to the game during the fifth inning. By then, his reputation had been cemented as “I-285” Perez. He never heard the end of it.

Looking forward is a critical aspect of a successful leader. But in order to accomplish this, a person must be determined to carry out what God has planned. I recently read a good question to ask at this point is, “Would I be willing to do this even if I never got paid for it?” Once that is answered, planning is necessary, both in terms of goals and actions, to help make the vision a reality. And since vision is much bigger than just one person, God has to be involved in the process. As the Bible says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Then as God directs and leads, one can effectively put the vision into action, instead of driving around aimlessly.

By way of reminder, the vision of the discipleship ministry at King’s Grant is to “move people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and His church.” So, what does that involve?

  1. Movement: We cannot remain in the same place; we desire to move away from the status quo toward obedience to God’s call and command.
  2. People: We work with a group of volunteer believers. The old phrase is correct, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” People have their flaws and their own stubborn wills, but leaders know what growth should look like. But motivating others to desire to attain it is quite a challenge.
  3. Higher levels: This means that we seek to be in the position to hear from God, just like Moses went up to the mountain to receive God’s Word. Sort of like the higher he got, the closer he was to God.
  4. Commitment: This refers to the amount of energy and passion we bring to the table. We become what we are committed to, just like in marriage, friendship, teamwork and even our salvation. If we are committed to our salvation, we will actively seeks ways to live it out and bring others into our spiritual journey.
  5. Christ: It is all in vain if we do not exist for Christ, His kingdom and His mission.
  6. Church: We are more than a social club on Sundays; we have purpose, a mission, and a passion to do that which God calls us to do. The body of Christ is the hope of the world; and the church gathered is the keeper of the Great Commission.

So we need to develop a plan to grow in faith. Since we have a vision of what a disciple of Christ should look like, we can dream of how we can get there. This weekend is the Men at the Cross conference (October 30, 2010). By the end of the conference every man will receive the challenge not only to become a disciple of Christ but to disciple other men. A man’s first discipleship group is his own family; what an awesome responsibility, and privilege. Let’s not drive around in circles forever missing the proper exit. Actually, if we just let Christ sit behind the wheel, maybe we will get to where we need sooner rather than later.

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A Father's Blessing, Part 1

Have you ever considered the biblical practice of “the blessing?” Authors Smalley and Trent wrote a book about it called, The Blessing, which is the industry standard on the topic. We can go back to Genesis 27 to see how it was used. Jacob stole this older brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:1-29) and then Esau comes to get his blessing, only to find out it was taken (Genesis 27:30-38). When the blessing is withheld, notice how Esau responds (Genesis 27:34, 38). He was not an emotional, fragile, feminine man. He was a hunter, fisherman and gamesman; I’m thinking like Jeremiah Johnson.

How did the Father communicate His blessing to Jesus? Matthew 3:16-17 is a fine example, He expressed words of affirmation; the Father spoke openly of his pleasure in the Son. Not a bad example for us today. Here is a brief list of what Smalley and Trent teach about how to bless our children:

Meaningful Touch (Genesis 27:26-27): Jacob is 40 years old or more and his daddy is kissing him? Yes. There is a healing, affirming and nurturing dimension to appropriate physical touch in the home. Men, we need to show love by your actions, but don’t leave this out. It may be uncomfortable for you, but think of your kids. Jesus blessed children as well, by bringing them close and touching them (Mark 10:13-14, 16).

Spoken Words (Proverbs 18:21, 12:18, 15:4): A blessing is not a blessing until it is spoken. The tongue has the power to give life or destroy. Let’s speak words of affection (like, I love you), or words of reconciliation (like, I’m sorry, I was wrong, forgive me), or words of vision (like, you’re going to do something great with your life, you’re going to make a difference), or words of security (like, you’re mine, and you’re special, helping them to sense God created them for a purpose). Don’t withhold your words (Proverbs 3:27).

Affirming Your Child’s Value (Genesis 27:27, 28, 29): What happened after Isaac kissed Jacob? Yes, he smelled him, but what did that (and the words that followed) mean? It was like daddy was saying, “Do you know what I think of when I think of you, my son? I think of a field with grain growing. I hear birds singing. I see sun shining. You’re in the middle of the field, tall and strong.” It’s like a word picture; it takes a little creativity, but you can do it. Use an everyday object and then match the emotional meaning of the trait you are praising to the object you’ve picked.

Picturing a Special Future (or Spiritual Vision) (Genesis 27:28): May God give you… basically, spiritual transformation, like a metamorphosis. Where do you see you child when they get older? Wonderful verses of blessing are Psalm 127:3-5, Jeremiah 24:7

Active Commitment (to a Prosperous Vision) (Genesis 27:29): They would be the master of their opposition, their role in life, their finances… and not the reverse. Present your children being blessed to the Lord.

A few final questions… Can you trust God with your most treasured possession? Can you commit your children to their best interest (Proverbs 22:6)? Do you understand their particular bent? Have you become a student of your child? Do you know their friends, activities: do you know their heart? Try asking yourself these questions about your kids:

  • What do they most often daydream about?
  • When they think of their years as a young adult, what would they really enjoy doing?
  • Of all the people they have studied in the Bible, who is the person they would most like to be like? Why?
  • What do they believe God wants them to do?
  • What type of boy/girlfriend are they most attracted to?
  • What is the best/worst part of their school day?