Many leaders I connect with struggle to answer a very simple question: are you leading from vision or from hallucination? On its face, this question seems as though it would be easy enough to answer. When pressed though, many people simply do not know where to look to objectively answer this critical question. The reality is that we cannot answer that question for ourselves. Only a critical look into the evidence of our leadership will reveal from which perspective we are leading. Understanding the difference between vision and hallucination, and making the necessary adjustments to your leadership approach, enables you to lead your teams in a way that doesn’t confuse activity with accomplishment.
Too often, I encounter a workforce that participates in a whirlwind of activity yet doesn’t seem to have much to show for its effort. These environments suffer from low morale, high turnover, and an over-abundance of mediocrity. In an atmosphere where quota trumps quality and process exists only to perpetuate process, one thing is clear – your management’s view of success is a mirage. A mirage is an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions. It is something that exists only in the mind, while reality shows something completely different to be true. Unfortunately, this means that those who see the mirage are the least qualified to judge whether or not what they are seeing actually exists.
This is where a critical look into the actuality of your leadership is crucial. By default, it means that you are not fully qualified to make this judgement call by yourself. Finding a mentor, a coach, or other trusted voice that can help you to see a clearer picture is a significant component to revealing the truth of reality in your leadership. That said, here are some tools you can use to identify individual things that, if they become habits on (or in) your team, should be seen as caution flags that you might be leading your team toward a vision that turns out to be a hallucination.
Your meetings lead only to discussion and not action.
If you are meeting with your team, you should be deciding on action items. If you find that your meetings turn into long discussions or debates and the only action that takes place is scheduling your next meeting, you are in danger of vision leak.
You find a distinct lack of time to create and innovate because of the processes that eat up your day.
As a leader, you must see beyond where you are and lead your team to that place. It is tough to do that if you are caught up in granular processes that eat up your time. You must prioritize your time in such a way that you intentionally section off time to both ask, and answer, the question: what’s next?
You spend more time reacting to situations than responding.
Vision-led leaders cannot be content to operate from a “crisis-response mode” as though it is normal. Sure, from time-to-time things will come up that you were not prepared for. That said, if you consistently find that you are spending more time putting out fires in the wrong areas than you are creating the right fires in the right areas, you are in danger of leading into a hallucination.
You are not learning new things.
You do not know it all. You cannot know it all. If you are always the smartest person in the room, you are in danger. Find a new room.
Maybe these above situations don’t apply to you. If you are already squared away on the above items, how can you tell which place you’re leading from? Here is a quick version of the assessment. Henry Ford once said, “Vision without execution is hallucination”. That means that planning to plan doesn’t cut it. Saying one thing yet experiencing another doesn’t qualify.
A real vision will have a real plan that will get real results. Anything less is a hallucination.
Dr. Zebulan Hundley is an author, speaker, leadership coach, and the host of the podcast, Life-Giving Leadership with Dr. Zeb. With a doctorate in Church Leadership, Dr. Zeb specializes in non-profit leadership environments where volunteers comprise a majority of the workforce. His experience comes not only from the non-profit sector, but also from his time in for-profit corporations and in the U.S. Army. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor at Hope Church in Warner Robins, GA and has recently released his book, Learning the Art of Effective Leadership. Follow him on Facebook & Instagram @zebulanhundleyauthor