Yes, these are the words that are perhaps the most important to all organizations, from highly productive businesses to smaller volunteer-based works. These are the three pillars that all leadership is built on. Often we focus on the last word, vision, but more and more I am coming to the conclusion that it needs to be the first two words, as I have met a lot of good vision that has never become what it had the potential to be, only because of culture and values standing in the way. So let’s have look at these three pillars of leadership:
I work and live in a multicultural environment. Having lived cross-culturally for more than 13 years and working with colleagues from all over the world, I know some about culture, but it is not this kind of culture I am speaking about here. It’s not Norwegian culture or Romanian culture- it is smaller and sometimes bigger than that- it’s about the culture that you have in your church, organization or company. Is there a culture of fear, of hopelessness or even a culture of poverty or is there a culture of life and of hope and of “we can do it together”?
I will start with the more challenging part here- fear. I have been in leadership meetings where people were afraid of speaking up because if they did, they would be run over by people in the room. I was shocked the first time I saw this, but wonder what culture are you setting? Fear based? If we cannot speak in leadership meetings without being afraid that people will have major emotional or verbal attacks in response there is something that needs to change because the fear based culture is taking away the culture of celebration and life. An organization I have worked close with had such a strong culture of poverty that they never managed to celebrate the good things that happened to them. It was in their bones that they were poor and if money came in everyone was just waiting for the next crisis so they could be poor again.
What we want to build is a culture of life, hope and celebration. So how do we do that? Well, what are you speaking to your people? Good to see you! Thank you for what you are doing. This sentence is crucial in building culture. See people and treat them differently. Some need more time, others, a clap on the shoulder, some just need someone to listen to them, and others need a small but timely correction.
If we give credit to things that are not good, we undermine all those in our team who do a good job. So make sure you can stand for what you are saying, because if not it will fire back on you. Do you eat together? Spend time together? Have a BBQ together and create an environment that is fun to be in? You set the culture in your team. It does not matter what nationality or ethnicity you have, what matters is how you want it to be and working for it to look like that.
We all have values, some are more aware of them than others but we all have them. And all organizations have them too. A church we have been working with lately said they value children, but they did not have a children’s program. So that meant that they valued them in word but not in action. Do you think that helped the children to feel valued? No, for the children the church did not value them. Then we where able to bring some changes and a children’s program became a part of the church and children and their parents were valued in a new dimension. Then one Sunday, the children’s worker had prepared for their Sunday program when the pastored announced that there would not be a children’s program that day. They were to be in the service to see and learn, but the whole service there was not a word to the children, and the church fell back on what were their actual values, “We have children in our church so they can grow up and become adults”. In that also lies a lack of valuing the children’s worker who was prepared and all the children that missed out on a great program.
This is a good example because it shows us that many times we say we value the right things but in reality we don’t. So we need to examine what our values are. One of my values is hospitality and it’s painful when I know I cannot live up to having people over all the time. As I have shared in previous articles, I am married to an introvert who needs her time as well, but I love having people over and if anyone drops in I will lay down what I am doing, rearrange my schedule and be there. Just recently we had four people from Norway coming by unannounced and for me there was no way I would not make the time to see them and show them around, and I loved it.
I often ask myself this question, “Are all people smart?” The answer often reveals our values. Some will respond right away with “no”, some are more confused, and some says “yes”. Your answer will define how you look at people and how you value different people.
I love and thrive on vision. There is nothing more fulfilling than the feeling of creating something amazing and making a difference. Vision, that inner dream that is spoken out and on paper, that thing that we put all our energy into actively and love seeing accomplished or at least work towards. That is what vision is doing to me and I think you too. Without it we perish. Active vision is not the same as vision statements. I have read a lot of vision statements that have not moved a cell in my body. It is not what you are doing now but what you will be doing in the next season ahead. It’s what gets you up in the morning and what you dream about when you close your eyes in the evening.
I am well aware that not everyone is as visionary as I sometimes can be, but still when the most visionary of us can share vision and proclaim, “We have been on the mountain top, we have seen the Promised Land, come let’s do this together, follow me”. Then there is excitement in the air, and that is what vision does! Forget vision statements but tell me where you have been and where we are going and that is all that is needed. Write them down and lets raise the flag, carrying it all the way into the Promised Land. And then the rest is just to tell the story!
If these three are work together, first creating the culture, setting the right values and casting the vision, there is nothing on earth that can stop it. It is the most powerful tool any leader has. Let’s shape our teams and communities, friends and workplaces to be teams that believe in the same values, have cultures that celebrate, and pursue visions so big that we can dream about them.
‘Til next time…