(This is the fourth installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)
Last time, as part of my thoughts on what we can do to make a positive difference in Washington, I gave you the first component of a compelling vision: having a significant purpose. The second aspect of a compelling vision is a picture of the future. What do you want to be true in the future that is not true today? If you do a great job at what you’re doing, what will happen? Focus on the end result, not the process of getting there. And your picture of the end result should not be abstract—it should be a mental image you actually can visualize.
Southwest Airlines’ dream has always been for every American to be able to be with a friend or a relative in a happy time or a sad time. Everyone should have the freedom to fly—that’s why they are a low-cost airline. When cofounder Herb Kelleher saw in the 1970s that the only people who were doing much flying were business people or the wealthy, he decided that wasn’t right. He asked, “Why can’t everybody have a chance to fly?” and that’s when they decided they were going to “democratize the skies.” Democratizing the airways is Southwest’s picture of the future.
Jack Bowsher, former Director of Education for IBM and author of Educating Voters for Rebuilding America, suggests a picture of the future for our country that I think most Americans could get passionate about:
“Americans want to live in peace and be able to support themselves financially throughout their adult years with at least a middle-class standard of living. During their lifetime, they will need affordable health care and excellent education systems. … In their senior years, retired Americans should be able to continue living an independent life with the help of a government pension plus the income they can earn from their investments. Americans will always enjoy the personal freedom that the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens.”
So what’s the picture of the future for our country? Where is the United States heading? What will a good job look like? I don’t know that our leaders have good answers to any of these questions.
The first and second aspects of a compelling vision—a significant purpose and a picture of the future—are powerful, but those two components alone do not create a truly enduring vision. I’ll explain the third element–clear values—in my next installment. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how we can help create a more effective leadership vision for America.