Archive for the 'Storytelling' Category

Creating a vision – the role of a leader

In the first few chapters of Animal Farm, the reader is drawn in to the vision that Old Major sets for the animals before he dies. A vision where the evils of the animal’s life can change through the removal of man, a vision that has the animals thinking about being rich and free, a vision that stirs the emotions of the animals, a vision that the animals buy in to and act on.

Taking a corporate perspective of Old Major’s vision there are elements of his final speech that would make many a CEO proud;
– It’s a clear message that creates a vision of a better farm/ workplace
– It makes it clear who the enemy/competition is – who needs to be beaten
– It outlines what need to be done to achieve the rewards they want
– It is communicated by a respected pig/ leader
– It uses language that the various animals/ staff can relate to and understand
– It uses imagery that the animals can visualise, smell and taste
– It is backed up by an anthem that stirs the emotions

For those of you that know the story, Old Major died soon after setting this vision and it was picked up by the self-appointed new leader Napoleon. As the story unfolds and Napoleon puts his only particular angle on the vision and how it should be implemented, it becomes apparent that there were elements of Old Major’s original vision that were missing.

The original vision left a lot of questions unanswered. It appealed to the animals on the basis that they were unhappy with their present situation and wanted it to change. The vision presented to them sounded like an idyll yet it lacked substance and a sense of realism (ok, I know I am questioning the vision created by talking and reading animals). Whilst the animals hung on to the vision for some time and sang the animal/ company anthem there was great scope for interpretation and it became obvious that some of the animals were less committed than others.

In organisations it seems that so often the same thing happens. The CEO and leadership team create a vision, they may then invest in a process to communicate this to all staff and then it goes off the rails.

As we see in Animal Farm a vision is only of use if it can engage staff on an ongoing basis in the things that need to be done to achieve the future state. It also has to have a level of substance and reality that makes it achievable and real to all who need to play a part in making it happen. Creating and committing to the vision should be a long and focused activity that goes beyond the vision launch communication activities and is built-in to aspects of all communication and leadership.

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