After exhausting his funds in attempting to begin a video production career, the young man of twenty-two years of age had to decide where to go to escape the bill collectors. He decided to go to Hollywood where his brother was convalescing from a serious illness. So he spent his last $40 on a first class train ticket to California. As he observed the country side, an older gentleman sat down beside him and asked him where he was going. The young man responded, “I am going to Hollywood.” The older gentleman replied, “And what is your business in Hollywood?” With a big smile, the young man responded, “I’m going to direct motion pictures.” “Really,” the older man queried, obviously surprised by the response. “Yes,” the young man continued, “I’m going to direct great Hollywood motion pictures.” The young man was Walt Disney, and he did indeed direct great Hollywood motion pictures. His success began, as is most often the case, with a vision. This is what motivational guru Brian Tracy calls “the law of Direction.” Tracy says, “Successful people have a clear sense of purpose and direction in every area of their lives.”
Leadership is about vision. One man says a leader is a person who knows the road, stays ahead, and pulls others with him. He wastalking about vision. Another person offered this definition. A leader is one who sees more than others, farther than others, and before others. Again, he was talking about vision. George Barna concludes: “You might define vision as foresight with insight based on hindsight. This definition underscores the importance of looking to the future, emphasizes the significance of possessing a keen awareness of current circumstances and possibilities and notes the value of learning from the past.”
So where does this vision come from? It comes from asking the right questions. Where do I want to go with my life? What do I want to accomplish? Those are the questions out of which vision is shaped. And a clear vision is the context out of which success usually comes. Here are two examples.
Elton Trueblood was a Christian intellectual in the 20th century whose writing influenced his entire generation. Raised on a farm in Indianola, Iowa, Trueblood eventually received degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins on his way to becoming one of the most influential Christians of his time. But it started with a vision. He said, “Later, when I took degrees at Harvard and Johns Hopkins it was not the least surprising to me because I’d always expected to reach as high as I could.”
Nolan Ryan, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, had a blazing fastball that approached 100 miles an hour. George Scott said about him, “No one throws harder than Nolan Ryan. Not even God.” He is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to strike out the side with only nine pitches. And he did it in both the National and American League. But his success as a pitcher in the Major Leagues started with a vision. One year, after playing in an All Star game, the man presenting the awards said, “One day, one of you Little Leaguers will go on to play in the major leagues.” Ryan said, “When I heard what he said, it was like a bell went off in my head.” He immediately went home and told his mother, “That man was talking about me.”
An old saying captures the reason vision is crucial to effective leadership. Do you remember it? “A person creates a vision and then his vision creates him.”
So how can we create the right vision for our lives?
The first step is to examine our passions. What do we love to do? Bestselling author Jim Collins discovered that the “Good to Great” companies he describes in his book did not select some goal and then say, “We need to get passionate about that.” Instead, they determined what they were passionate about and then they did that.
The second step is to evaluate our gifts. What are we good at? Excellence grows out of competence. And competence comes when we exercise our gifts. Nothing is more counterproductive than doing things well that we should not have been doing in the first place. Doing the right things is more important than doing things right.
The third step is to explore our opportunities. What avenues are open to us? The New Testament writers distinguish between chronos time and kairos time. Chronos time is simply the passing moments of time. Kairos time is a special moment in the midst of the passing moments of time. Paul has these kairos moments in mind when he warns the Christians at Ephesus: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (Eph 5:15-16a).
An important part of leadership is creating the right vision because, the old saying is true: “A person creates a vision and then his vision creates him.”