I was recently asked to provide 3-5 “Things You Should Know” on the topic of “Leadership: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategic Planning” for our industry’s trade magazine. Below is what I provided. Let me know if you have something to add.
Leadership and strategic thinking isn’t about having all the answers, it’s, at the core, asking the right questions and then leading a team or organization to discover the best answers. And these answers are critical because it’s around them that a leader builds unity, community, focus and ultimately success.
The following six groups of questions are the most foundational and strategic questions a leader can ask and then help their team or organization answer:
- Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is typically expressed in a purpose or mission statement.
- What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? The answer to these questions is stated as an organization’s core values.
- What do we believe to be true? What is it about the world we’re most sure of? What’s true even though we may not like it? The answer to these questions is typically written in a statement of faith or a confession.
- What do we want to become? When we look into the future who and what kind of team or organization do we want to be? What are the kinds of things we’d want others to say about us? Answering these questions will lead to creating a shared vision of your future.
- What do we want to accomplish? 5, 10, 20 years from now, when we look back, how will we know we’ve been successful? What will be the key indicator that we faithfully fulfilled our mission and vision? A Big Hairy Audacious God Goal (BHAGG) answers these questions.
- What makes us distinct? What are the defining characteristics that make us stand out from other similar organizations? How do those outside our organization or team describe the work we do or service we provide? When you answer these questions you’ve articulated your brand promise (in organizations with a Christian mission – it’s often called a philosophy of ministry).
So a leader’s first task is to ask these foundational questions then second, lead their teams to discovering the answers. When these first two tasks are accomplished the leader’s job isn’t finished. The final, unending task of the leader is to teach, remind, highlight, reinforce, and be the biggest communicator and cheerleader of these answers to every stakeholder of the organization. This is the primary task of the leader and one that needs to happen every day, all the time; it’s what makes a leader a leader, and one that makes organizations great.Advertisements
We’ll begin with the first two questions – “what do we believe to be true?” and “what’s important to us?” The answers are foundational and should never change, though they can occasionally be updated for clarity’s sake. The answers are the underpinnings for the other four questions. And like any good foundation, they need to be protected from any form of compromise.
Question 1: What do we believe to be true?
Typically religious organizations have a statement of faith or a confession that answers “what do we believe to be true?” drafted through blood, sweat and tears and then, unfortunately, ends up on the shelf somewhere. Yet in a world where truth seems to be like shifting sands, articulating what you believe can and should be integral to an organization’s DNA. There is not appropriate length to such a document; it depends entirely on what is held as true.
Even for non religious organizations I’ve come to believe that answering this question can be a unifying process and help provide clarity and alignment for the entire organization.
Question 2: What’s important to us?
Core Values, on the other hand, should be limited to 5 to 8 succinct and memorable statements that answer the question “what’s important to us”? They define what an organization should and shouldn’t do. Jim Collin says in Built to Last – “it is absolutely essential to not confuse core ideology with culture, strategy, tactics, operations, etc.” Core values transcend all these things while guiding their appropriate implementation. Refer to Built to Last for some examples.
With these two foundational questions answered an organization is ready to answer the next two questions – “Why do we exist?” and “What makes us distinct?” both of which we’ll look at in my next post.
To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.43.928283-85.286682