“Vision, is it received, developed or discovered?”

Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame University said, “Vision is the essence of leadership.”

Vision means knowing where you want to go and how to get there. It requires three things: First, your vision must be clear and compelling. Second, it must be articulated well. Third, your team must be excited about pursuing it.

Above all, you must be consistent. No one follows an uncertain or faint trumpet. It’s very difficult to sing harmony when you can’t hear the lead.

You develop a clear and compelling vision by using one of the following three approaches; you can impose it, buy it, or forge it through consensus.

First, imposing a vision can be either by demand or persuasion. Teledyne founder, Henry Singleton, believes an organization is built around a mind with an idea that’s aware of the key issues of his generation.

Great leaders stay ahead of the curve and lead from the future, not to the future. They are educated visionaries, sharpened by their image of the future and guide their organization with confidence and humility.

Poor leaders impose their vision through demands often disguised as motivation, but in reality is manipulation. Great leaders’ cast their vision until it becomes the common vision of the team through communication that’s vivid and compelling.

Second, buying a vision. Consultants will happily create a fashionable mission statement that creates a lot of energy but few sustainable results. The problem with these “off-the-rack” solutions is they are usually so generic they’re worthless, regardless of what you pay for it.

Visions can’t be sold like a McDonalds burger or Starbucks latte. They can’t be a Burger King vision where everyone has it their way. Your team and stakeholders know immediately that you’re trying to sell them a second-hand, cut-and-paste dream they reject immediately. If they don’t, they are naive and of no real value to the team, release them.

Third, forging a vision happens through leadership consensus by encouraging broad contributions in putting flesh on the skeleton you provide. This produces a vision that’s the most enduring and effective for long term sustainable results.

At the end of the process you want a vision that is not only compelling, but energizes great buy-in by the core leaders and all the stakeholders. You don’t forge a vision overnight, it comes through patience, perseverance and passion.

Ask your frontline team members today, ”What is our purpose/vision? How does what you do here connect to that on a daily basis?”

If they can’t answer those questions with any kind of certainty, either you need to reconsider your title as their leader, or they need to reconsider their place on the team.