Changing the Flow with Vision

Author: Ron Hadley, CEO & Founder,

Reversing the flow of an entire river is a notable accomplishment.

From its inception, the Chicago River flowed from west to east just like every other US river east of the Continental Divide. Motivated by various needs and benefits, a vision to reverse the river’s flow began in 1871 and was fully realized nearly thirty years later. Today, the Chicago River system is a vibrant, central part of the city’s daily life and was named a “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” in 1999. It all began as a vision and was achieved by an inspired, determined city.

Leading and achieving a vision of such notable impact does not follow a singular formula. But there is a basic and oft-proven “1-2-3 Step” model that leaders can follow.

Forming a Vision is where it all starts. How a vision takes shape is important. Time spent understanding a need and soliciting thoughtful inputs from vested stakeholders can increase the probability that various perspectives are considered, that a comprehensive plan emerges and that stakeholders are effectively engaged in the vision’s eventual implementation.

Casting a Vision is step two. It’s one thing to have a good idea — even a right idea — that evolves into a clear vision for change. But the vision’s ultimate success is largely determined by a leader’s ability to enlist and engage a team that believes in the vision and will actively be a part of it. Keeping the vision the front of people, sharing relevant updates, listening and adjusting to feedback, and celebrating progress, all contribute to getting to where the vision is taking everyone.

Achieving Your Vision is the ultimate goal and often the most elusive. Having a vision for change and motivating people to be a part of it are somewhat the easiest steps. Incrementally tracking benchmarks, and adjusting as needed, is where a vision’s actualization often fails or falls short. But these steps of tracking and adjusting can empower the on-going work and commitment to the vision. And they often require the most intentionality and focus by the leader.

Changing the directional flow of a major river is notable. Kudos to my kinfolk in Chicagoland. But perhaps the most noble visions are those formed to positively affect the direction of lives lived. That is the work that so many of us are devoted to in education, civic leadership and social impact. So let’s envision, cast and achieve new futures that can propel anyone and everyone forward… collectively getting to where we are going.

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