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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Can You See It Now?

This Blog entry evolves from two books written by Marcus Buckingham - First, Break All The Rules (co-authored with Curt Coffman) and The One Thing You Need To Know. They are among the valuable reservoir of resources I have collected over the years in search of ideas and information to leverage success as a school and district leader.
Buckingham contends that the most important element of leadership is the ability to understand and articulate a coherent vision that will enlist, align, and elevate followers in pursuit of shared menaing and common goals.
He uses an example drawn from science to explain the purpose of a vision:

"In 1666 Isaac Newton used a prism to examine the spectrum of colors and realized that the prism had pried apart the white light of sunshine as it hit the prism and refracted the colors to different degrees. He discovered that white light was, in fact, a mixture of all the other colors in the visible spectrum and that the only way to create white light was to draw all of these different colors together into a single beam."
That’s what an effective vision must do; create the white light from all of the different voices and perspectives, thoughts and beliefs of followers. Let's continue with another example extracted from the field of science. A laser beam is concentrated, coordinated beam of light. Effective leaders are capable of developing a coherent, laser-like focus on the vision through persistently evoked words and deeds attentive to the vision. Consistency and integrity are required staples throughout this essential leadership task.  

Buckingham turns to anthropology to declare why it's vital to skillfully communicate a vision:
"Anthropologist Donald Brown researched the universals of human nature in his book, Human Universals.
1. Fear of Death – The Need for Security
2. Fear of the Outsider- The Need for Community
3. Fear of the Future – The Need for Clarity
4. Fear of Chaos – The Need for Authority
5. The Fear of Insignificance – The Need for Respect

Although each fear/need is relevant to your efforts at leading, one of them demands your greatest focus.
By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear; to define the future in such vivid terms, through your actions, words, images, pictures, heroes, and scores that we can all see where you are, and thus we, are headed. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety, and therefore clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear."

Ask yourself these questions as you exercise any leadership role:

1. What are your core values and beliefs?
2. What are your strengths?
3. Who do you serve?
4. What measures will qualify and quantify your efforts toward fulfilling the vision?
5. What will you do today to promote progress relative to the vision?

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