Dear Clients, Collaborators, and Co-laborers in life:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Book of Proverbs 29:18)
I first heard these words from my Navy mentor and boss, Vice Admiral Jerry Tuttle. At the time, he was the Navy’s most senior three-star flag officer, a fearless and inspirational leader who wasn’t afraid to disrupt the status quo. In response to the first speech I’d written for him, he remarked, “We all know what Solomon said.” Dumbfounded, I replied, “Solomon said many things, sir.” Vice Admiral Tuttle smiled and quoted the proverb above. That was his last word on the topic. His subliminal message: write about vision and leadership. I did, and that quote found its way into every one of the 35 speeches that I wrote for him. This annual Whitespace Innovations New Year’s letter is written in remembrance of my late mentor and dear friend.
Solomon was right. Without a vision for the future, the people are doomed. Countries with no sense of destiny and no vision to reach for their futures are fated to dullness or demise. Similarly, companies fail when their leadership teams drift without a reliable and well-communicated sense of direction. Vision is the glue that keeps the business enterprise focused on a common goal, with the entire team pulling in the right direction.
Vision requires introspection. A company’s vision is inextricably tied to the purposes and values of the corporate leadership. The leaders’ values, purposes, ethics, morals, goals, and objectives indelibly shape the company’s future. If those values and purposes are not communicated well, the company may succeed in spite of itself, but it will lack resilience when tested by adversity. Introspection is required to mine those values and purposes and to forge them into the alloy of a realistic vision.
Vision also requires communication. Share your vision through frank exchanges with your direct reports. Plant and grow that vision by communicating your concept for the company’s future through multiple transparent conversations with employees at every level of the organization. Encourage employees to ask, “Where are we headed, and how will you lead us there?” Put yourself on the front line and communicate your vision with gusto.
Vision and communication both require courage. Step out on faith! Cast a daring vision that is more aggressive than you think can be achieved. Propose a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) that is 50% probable at best, but which excites and motivates your company with a bold ambition for the future. Tackle hard challenges and excite others to be part of that visionary effort.
Whitespace Innovations helps companies to shape their visions for the future and establish inspiring business initiatives. Our goals are to mentor others in solving tough problems, to help people find work through the growth of flourishing profitable enterprises, and to achieve a critical life-work balance for our employees and our customers. This year is filled with promise as we pursue our own bold vision to launch a new company—Whitespace Federal—through which we will offer our leadership development services in federal markets.
Introspection, communication, and courage: these are the tools that you use to forge a vision through the alloy of strong values, determined purpose, and inspired audacious goals. Set a clear, realistic, and compelling vision for your company. Very soon, hindsight will prove the value of that effort.
We wish you a fulfilling balance between life and work as you pursue a prosperous new year!
Austin W. Boyd, CEO