Focusing Attention: Searching for Commitment

The visionary leader may generate new views of the future and may be a genius at synthesizing and articulating them, but this makes a difference only when the vision has been successfully communicated throughout the organization and effectively institutionalized as a guiding principle. Visionary leaders are only as powerful as the ideas they can communicate. His or her basic philosophy must be: “We have seen what this organization can be, we understand the consequences of that vision, and now we must act to make it so.” A vision cannot be established in an organization by edict, or by the exercise of power or coercion. It is more an act of persuasion, of creating an enthusiastic and dedicated commitment to a vision because it is right for the times, right for the organization, and right for the people who are working in it.

We have found in our discussions with managers that visions can often be communicated best by metaphors, or models – as when a political leader promises “a chicken in every pot” or a phone company asks you to “reach out and touch someone.” Perhaps in our banking example it might be something like “innovative banking for innovative companies,” or “financial services at the leading edge.” In any communication, some distortion takes place, but the extraordinary manager seems to be able to find just the right metaphor that clarifies the idea and minimizes distortion. In fact, the right metaphor often transcends verbal ...

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