All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency. In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Whether you are a student government president, a resident assistant, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.
Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision:
1. Think Big
Use your kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom: DREAM BIG. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other small images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, grand and awe-inspiring.
When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.
2. Communicate Your Vision to Others
As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.
Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums, including leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, and information tables. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:
- Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble. Set clear expectations and goals for your group and communicate them to everyone. Track and communicate the group’s progress regularly.
- Have fun. If people see that you are having fun, they will want to be a part of it. Purposely plan fun activities for your team members regularly. One of the biggest reasons people stay involved in clubs and organizations is because it’s fun for them.
- Engage your audience. People take a part in what they help to create so keep your members engaged in the process.
- Publicity should be colorful and clear. Use all media sources possible, such as Facebook, Twitter, campus publications, campus radio, and any other means to spread the vision of your organization.
- Be open to constructive feedback. Get your members involved by seeking feedback, including constructive criticism. Someone’s feedback can be a positive seed for progress.
3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision
Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without going through B, C, and D; you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap.
As a student leader, it is important to achieve goals and view them as smaller victories toward your vision. Here are three main types of goals you should set for your organization:
1. Procedural Goals – goals that bring structure to the group like starting on time, ending on time, following established meeting protocols, and having members in attendance.
2. Directional Goals – goals that give direction towards the vision such as a new marketing plan or the completion of a service project.
3. Milestones - goals that are a true group accomplishment and should be celebrated. Examples include earning a prestigious award, presenting at a national conference, or raising a large amount of money for a local charity.
Having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and their organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and must communicate their picture of the future. A vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a leader, it is important to find your area of passion within the organization and create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity, and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.
Steve Knepp is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com