One of the primary responsibilities of anyone in leadership is to ensure all members of the organization are committed to a common purpose. Leaders know where they’re going, and they have a way of getting others to go with them. Leaders don’t just go with the flow: They start the flow and participate in defining the flow. This part of leadership can be separated into three aspects: mission, vision and strategic planning.
Aspects of a Leader
Mission: This notion answers the question of why the organization exists. What’s our purpose? Why do we do what we do? Noted author on leadership Peter Drucker maintains the purpose statement should be short (in his words: “short enough to be on a T-shirt”). Example: “To protect and to serve” is the slogan on the doors of the LAPD police cars. “To make people happy” is Disney’s mission statement. It’s a continual reminder of why the organization exists. It keeps people on track.
Vision: In the context of leadership, a vision is the desired future state of the organization. It isn’t a prophecy or ethereal dream. It’s a realistic yet challenging development of the group, company or enterprise, which an individual or group wants to see happen. It can be explained by this question: If you had a magic wand that could transform your police department, company or family into an ideal status, what would it look like?
Unlike a strategic plan, vision is long-term and usually doesn’t consist of the various practical steps that must be taken to arrive at the ideal. Rather it gives broad direction, defines long-term impact and sets standards. It’s inspirational.
One of the most well-known statements of vision is that prepared by Henry Ford in 1909. He described a future wherein his company could make the then-expensive automobile affordable to the common man. He envisioned horses absent from the roadways and the motor car taken for granted. His vision was stunning for the time. Horses were the primary form of travel. Automobiles were the rare toys of the rich.
His vision set the long-term direction of his company. He inspired the engineers and workers within his fledgling company. Within a decade, mass production and the assembly line were producing low-cost motor cars. The common man could now afford to purchase a Ford automobile “in any color as long as it is black.” Vision can be a powerful tool in providing leadership.
Effective leaders in our profession have vision. They present an ideal future model of their police agency or unit. The LAPD had just begun to emerge from a sordid and shameful past filled with corruption when William H. Parker became chief in 1950. He envisioned a highly effective and respected department free from corruption. Looking ahead, he saw tough hiring standards, the best professional training, well-developed standards of performance and eventually rewarding compensation. He determined his agency would improve the quality of life and make the city a good place to live, and he convinced many to follow him on a path that would demand their best and give them deep fulfillment.
Strategic plan: The strategic plan provides detailed action steps to accomplish the vision. It outlines specific short-term goals. It assigns responsibilities with due dates. It’s very specific and measurable. It’s the roadmap to the vision.
Often a strategic plan is developed through a structured process. The most common process involves several basic components.
Wise leaders involve a number of carefully selected people in a strategic planning exercise. Strategic planning is hard work. The more effort and thought put into a plan, the more powerful it can be.
Giving direction to followers is a primary role of leaders. It can be as simple as assigning a specific task. But for powerful change to occur, it should be a well thought out mission, vision and plan.–On Point.
1. An evaluation of the environment: What trends (e.g., economics, demographics, technology, public expectations) can be projected in the short term (1–5 years)?
2. An evaluation of the current status of the organization: What does the organization do well and where is it lacking?
3. The development of worst- and bestcase scenarios: What will likely occur if no plan is developed? What’s possible if a superb plan is formulated?
4. The establishment of priorities: Based on the first three steps, what are the most important issues to address in the plan?
5. The actual development of the plan: Action steps are decided, responsibilities are delegated and due dates for progress reports are established.