While I am incredibly grateful for the education I received at the Carroll Graduate School of Management at Boston College, I must admit that there was one area of function that I was not adequately prepared for as I moved on from school to the “real world” of owning and managing small businesses. I was immersed in the well established sciences of finance, accounting, economics, statistics, marketing, information technology, tax, ethics, management and organizational development, but there was little, if any, focus on the matter of vision.
As it turns out, this ability has proven to be the most important capability a true leader can possess. I absolutely agree that every manager or leader should possess a balanced understanding of the areas of business knowledge described above, but these are really the “hows” of the organization, the means by which the “why” – the core purpose of the organization – is translated day by day into the “what” of the organization, that is, its products.
So what is the “why” of the organization? You’ve likely noticed that many companies work to develop mission statements and concise lists of core values. While these certainly point in the direction of the “why,” they are naught but refracted versions or shades of the original and central “why.” Companies rarely articulate the “why” because those responsible for charting its course are not typically aware of the importance of (1) articulating it and (2) displaying it in plain sight of staff, investors, customers and competitors.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the “why” that sits in the center of the various businesses I own and manage and I’ve come up with a simple yet complete definition of the core of my vision for each and every one of them:
I believe in a healthy world.
This is my “why” for everything I do. I truly believe in the possibility of a world free of disease and conflict. We are, admittedly, a long way from that goal, but I have a vision and I am taking steps to implement that vision through every decision made in my organizations. There are obstacles to overcome – commonly held beliefs, years of evidence to the contrary conditioning human consciousness, innumerable competing interests, etc. – but I know that each time we successfully meet these obstacles in miniature in the small business setting, we give incontrovertible evidence that it can be done to the doubting aspects of our own consciousness as well as to the naysayers beyond.
So what does this mean to you? Vision is just as important to the individual as it is to the corporation. Why do you do what you do? What is the central “why” to which you have dedicated your life? If you haven’t defined it yet, you’re probably bouncing around from “why” to “why” – consciously or unconsciously – and you may even find yourself on occasion operating on two or more contradictory “whys” at the same time.
This is the source of the unrelieved tension in the consciousness of man. This is the source of the checkered progress of mankind through the ages. This is the central reason why you have not lived up to the high standard that you can in every aspect of your life.
Take the time to let your “why” form in your consciousness – the “why” that is unique to you – and you will be well on your way to a productive, fulfilling life.
Where there is vision, the people flourish.