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Education competencies: Managing vision and purpose

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies .


Communicates a compelling and inspired vision or sense of core purpose; makes the vision sharable by everyone; can inspire and motivate entire units or organizations.

Proficiency level

Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert
Communicates a vision or sense of purpose to those within sphere of influence Communicates vision and purpose with enthusiasm and encourages others to buy in Creates a compelling and inspired vision or sense of core purpose and clearly communicates it to the organization Is a gifted visionary, anticipating future trends and artfully crafting a broad vision incorporating many groups and organizations
Is optimistic about future possibilities Talks beyond today and is optimistic about his or her role in impacting the future Generates a sense of expectancy and optimism in others, vibrantly recruiting support for the vision Impassions others with a strong sense of purpose, and convinces them of the need and urgency to wholeheartedly give their support
Can inspire and motivate others within area or group Consistently inspires and motivates others within area or group Inspires and motivates entire units or organizations Instinctively discerns what drives his or her audience and deftly ignites and steers their sense of purpose to a common goal

Overdoing managing vision and purpose

  • May leave people behind
  • May lack patience with those who don’t understand or share his or her vision and sense of purpose
  • May lack appropriate detail-orientation and concern for administrative routine
  • May lack follow-through on day-to-day tasks

Essential questions

To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:

  • What cutting-edge program can I persuade others to support and integrate into our organization?
  • Do others communicate that they see me as a change agent?
  • How can I restructure an existing program or procedure that is not going well?
  • What are the critical questions I may face when presenting a new mission or vision, and how will I prepare to meet them?
  • What can I learn from my most recent setback or mistake?
  • Do my words and actions line up with the broadcasted mission and vision?

To avoid overdoing managing vision and purpose, ask yourself:

  • Am I too impatient and do I lack consideration of others’ comments?
  • Am I not paying enough attention to detail or administrative routine?
  • Am I following through on the day-to-day tasks?

Interview questions

  • Managing vision and purpose involves anticipating future trends, creating a compelling vision, and communicating that vision. Describe a situation that conveys your capability in this area.
  • People who manage vision and purpose impassion others, generating expectancy and optimism. Describe a situation that demonstrates your skill in this area.
  • Managing vision and purpose involves discerning what inspires and motivates people. Tell me about the most complex situation in which you demonstrated this competency.

Learning on the job

Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Craft the message: Create a mission statement that can be clearly explained to an audience in three minutes or less. Make it simple, compelling, and capable of capturing the imagination. Capture the essence of what’s important in your organization.
  • Represent a common mindset: Mission and vision statements should provide everyone in the organization with a roadmap of how to reach a common goal. Imagine what the change will look like when it’s fully implemented. Content should express where you are going, not how you will get there.
  • Manage change: Anticipate trouble and prepare to debug or fix mistakes. Document difficulties, and learn from them as a work in progress.
  • Walk your talk: Let what you do reflect what you say. Make your actions line up with your new mission and vision.
  • Match the audience: Learn to adjust the tone, pace, style, and content of your message to your audience.
  • Inspire: Motivate instead of threaten. Paint a positive, optimistic, and inspirational picture about where you need to go.
  • Prepare for resistance: Consider 10 critical questions that may arise, and be prepared with answers. Mentally rehearse how to respond to criticism; attack positions, not people.
  • Sell the mission and vision: Point out the features and benefits of the changes. Anticipate objections.
  • Talk the future: Consider educated “what-ifs” and speculate on how the future will impact your group.
  • Manage the mission and vision: Even if you have not been involved in creating the mission and vision of the organization, deliver the message with loyal enthusiasm.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Be a change agent; champion a significant change and work toward implementation.
  • Relaunch an existing program or project that is not going well.
  • Manage, teach, or coach a temporary group of inexperienced people.
  • Draft a mission statement or policy proposal, and get feedback from others.
  • Manage a study or project team on a significant issue, and present the results to key people.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Use multiple models. Select role models of towering strengths (or glaring weaknesses). Learn from characteristics rather than from the whole person.
    • Be a student of others. Study their behavior and what’s effective and ineffective. Adapt what you learn to improve yourself.
    • Learn from those in authority. Distance yourself from your feelings, and analyze what those in authority do and do not do well. Choose to imitate the successful behavior.
    • Learn from interviewing others. Ask what, how, and why they do what they do, where they learned it, and how they keep it current and relative.
    • Learn by observing others. Objectively study what they do.
    • Learn from remote models. Read a book or an article about someone, and observe what they do and don’t do well.
    • Get feedback from those in authority. Communicate that you are open to constructive criticism and are willing to work on issues they view as important.
    • Get feedback from your direct reports. Set a positive tone, and don’t retaliate if you don’t agree.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Participate in orientation events that communicate the strategies, mission, and goals of your organization.
    • Take a strategic course. Stretch your thinking to prepare for and anticipate future challenges.

Recommended readings

  • Adair, John.The Inspirational Leader.London: Kogan Page, 2003.
  • Bacon, Terry R., and David G. Pugh.Winning Behavior: What the Smartest, Most Successful Companies Do Differently.New York: AMACOM, 2003.
  • Black, J. Stewart, and Hal B. Gregersen.Leading Strategic Change: Breaking Through the Brain Barrier.Upper Saddle River, NH: Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 2002.
  • Bossidy, Larry, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck (Contributor).Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.New York: Crown Business Publishing, 2002.
  • Chajet, Clive, and Tom Shachtman.Image by Design.New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1991
  • Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras.Built to Last.New York: HarperBusiness, 2002.
  • Davidson, Hugh.The Committed Enterprise: How to Make Vision and Values Work.Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.
  • The Futurist Magazine.
  • Hamel, Gary.Leading the Revolution.Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000.
  • Kotter, John P., and Dan S. Cohen.The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations.Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
  • Price Waterhouse.Change Integration Team. Better Change.Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin Professional Publishing, 1995.
  • Reed, Peter J.Extraordinary Leadership: Creating Strategies for Change.London: Kogan Page, 2001.
  • Schwartz, Peter.The Art of the Long View.New York: Doubleday, 1991.
  • Tellis, Gerard J., and Pete N. Golder.Will and Vision.New York: McGraw-Hill Trade, 2001.
  • Thornton, Paul B.Be the Leader, Make the Difference.Irvine, CA: Griffin Trade Paperback, 2002.
  • Welch, Jack, and John A. Byrne.Straight From the Gut.New York: Warner Books, 2002.

Next steps

Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.

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