The leader defines the vision. However, that is not enough by itself. It is not enough just to have a high purpose. The leader must then share that purpose with the people he wants to follow him. There is a double meaning here to the word “share.” Effective leaders communicate (share) the vision in such a way that their constituents personally embrace (share) it.
Before the leader can expect the people to follow he must ensure they are properly aligned with the vision. This means that they understand it and personally own it. Visionary leaders often make the mistake of trying to jump from establishing the vision to moving on the vision. But the second stage of bringing alignment must not be neglected or rushed.
The primary tool of alignment is communication. To be effective the vision must be communicated with clarity, passion and credibility. Clarity so the people know where to go; passion so they want to go; and credibility so they are willing to follow a leader they trust.
Without a clear and compelling vision you will not be able to lead anyone anywhere. Leaders capture the hearts of their followers with a passionate vision.
Consider how Jesus shared the Great Commission:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-19)
It was not particularly detailed but it was clear and simple. What would have been the result if Jesus had said, “Now I have no idea what happens next. I don’t know what you’re all going to do. Why don’t you form a few small groups and discuss it, and let’s see what you come up with?” Jesus was the Leader and He shared a vision that was passionate and clear.
Leaders who do not envision future opportunity for their people, instead of breaking through limitations, can actually establish limitations in the hearts and lives of their followers. Then those people can adopt those limitations as their own, and they can become self-imposed limitations (or ceilings) the people have for the rest of their lives.
Elephants have great memories but they aren’t very smart. When they are babies their trainers can stake them down. The baby elephants try to tug away from the stake perhaps hundreds of times before they realize that they can’t possibly get away. At that point, their “elephant memory” takes over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they can’t get away from the stake. A limitation has been established in their lives. At this point, the strong stake can be replaced with a smaller wooden one, even though it wouldn’t have enough strength to hold the elephant. An elephant trained in its babyhood to believe that the stake is strong and won’t budge will not attempt to break loose and run away – even after it has grown strong enough to easily yank almost any stake out of the ground. In the same way, many people are limited for the rest of their lives by the negative words – from parents, teachers or spiritual leaders – and experiences of the past that have become ceilings preventing them from rising and fulfilling God’s highest purposes.
Thus, leaders must envision and share the future. Leaders can see what others have not yet seen. Leaders see beyond the normal, the ordinary, the expected. They gaze across time and imagine the greater things that can lie ahead. In doing so, they break through whatever limitations are holding the people back.