I’m back after a longer than expected break.  I just finished chapter 11 of The Fifth Discipline, Shared Vision.  In the chapter the author, Peter Senge, says “you cannot have a learning organization without shared vision.  Without a pull toward some goal which people truly want to achieve, the forces in support of the status quo can be overwhelming.”

If you are anything like me you are attracted leaders with a clear and strong vision.  I am constantly measuring a leader’s vision against my view of a situation.  The author notes that “leaders with vision are cult heroes.”  Why would that be?  Coming from an environment where the status quo was firmly entrenched, I have first hand experience with how stifling it can be.  I doubt I am alone in this.  The author spends the rest of the chapter explaining all the different ways a vision can get off track.  I’m sure you have experience with a vision that lost momentum so you don’t need me to dwell on that.  If you’re interested, get the book.

If vision is so hard to carry out, how does anyone ever succeed in seeing their vision through?  Is it perseverance?  Is it personal charisma?  The author provides a helpful insight.  “Organizations intent on building shared visions continually encourage members to develop personal visions.  If people don’t have their own vision, all they can do is “sign up” for some one else’s.  The result is compliance, never commitment.”

I believe this statement reveals why a person who can sustain a vision and see it through is viewed as a cult hero.  Look at Steve Jobs.  His recent record of success is well documented and for this he has the adoration of millions of people.  But he is more the exception than the rule.  The rest of us need to do the hard work of cultivating our own visions and the visions of others.

The downside of this is that cultivating anything is hard work.  The upside is that it can be empowering and challenging.  Empowering because people with vision are motivated to achieve.  Challenging because people with vision tend to upset the status quo.  Challenging because people with vision are often in direct opposition to compliance.

What kind of person are you?  Do you prefer compliance or commitment?  What is your vision?  What are you doing to cultivate a vision?