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Leading the way with vision

By Mark Haugen

Leadership isn't only about action; it is a perspective through which we see the world. Leadership shapes our thoughts, strategies, actions and commitments. In my last blog post, I compared the roles of manager and leader and questioned if you can be both for your program. I believe the answer is yes. Leadership and management are not opposites, but more like two eyes that provide binocular vision.

If you allow the two perspectives, management and leadership, to shape your vision you will be able to achieve a higher level of understanding of your program. Similar to how two eyes provide depth perception, a high-level leader and manager can address a topic with a significant depth of understanding. How do we assure that we see things "with both eyes open"?

According to Kouzes and Posner, 75 percent of people expect their leaders to be forward thinking, but executives spend only 3 percent of their time thinking about the future! How do we set aside the distractions of our daily work to be the leaders others expect us to be?
  • Lead through conversations. Ask questions. Learn about people's values, ideas, concerns and dreams. Share your vision and allow it to be shaped by their reaction, concerns and ideas. Develop strong trusting relationships.
  • Be intentional with your words, actions, commitments and use of your time. Clearly identify what you want to do and a flexible strategy that will allow you to do it.
  • Provide hope. Inspire others by believing goals can happen. Instill the same hope in others through your words and actions. When a group shares and believes in a common hope, the quality of their work increases, and so does the personal joy and value in individual accomplishments.
  • Invite others Encourage others to get active in achieving goals and leading the program. The Blandin Foundation's latest Rural Pulse survey shows that 53% of people who are not currently in a leadership role for an organization would consider serving if asked! This is a great resource for leaders, but delegation can be hard to do. I struggle with "making the ask" and trusting others use their own leadership and work style to accomplish our shared goals. But I am learning to do it.

Do you struggle with any of these issues? Do you have other ideas to support leadership development? What works for you?

-- Mark Haugen, Extension educator, regional 4-H youth development programs

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  1. Mark, very interesting discussion of the mutually beneficial lens of leadership and management. While I have leaned to the leadership side of the balance in my career (mostly because of my future-orientation or as some might say absent-mindedness in the present), when it became seriously out of balance I became less effective.
    Finding your personal balance point in this area based on your strengths and the nature of your role is critical to being effective. Depending on the size of your team, it is also often important to balance the strengths of your team by getting people whose own leadership-management balance complements your own.
    Thanks for stimulating thinking on this important topic.

  2. Mark,
    Great reminders - life and leadership is certainly about balances. I think this is a particularly sticky issue in youth work - because we are called to open up space for leadership to young people as well. If we struggle to do that with our colleagues can we open that space for youth? For me the real push is not always about honing practices in my own leadership - but being an ally to those who need more space to lead. For many of us adults, more inviting, less leading...

  3. Margo Herman, Extension Center For Youth DevelopmentMay 22, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Thanks for the further conversation about leadership, Mark. I found myself immersed in the Harvard Business Review article linked to your first bullet about leading through conversation. There is a chart within the HBR article called "Leadership Is A Conversation" that sorts out the "old model" of communication from the "new model" of communication that is fascinating and well worth a look. The time and frame of mind it takes to change perspective to the new model is significant, but so are the results! What I love about it is the potential to model the "new model" for employees AND for youth to be more open, intentional, inclusive, and interactive. It is a life skill to take the time for the more intentional conversations. Thanks for the resource and spurring some new thinking.

  4. Dale,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I sometimes feel myself swaying back and forth. It helps if I take a second to reflect on what I have done, what I need to do and create a modified strategy to help me achieve my results.
    What do you think led your role to being out of balance? Do you have any tips for others to prevent this from happening to other people?
    Thanks for your input!

  5. Deb,
    I think that your comments fit nicely into the tip of being intentional. If your aim is to develop the leadership skill of another, what can you do to be successful. Perhaps instead of saying "more inviting, less leading" the focus in that role is that 'more inviting is better leading'.

  6. Margo,
    I know what you mean about getting into that article. I wish that the image for the comparison was a little higher quality.
    As someone that has a good deal of experience in creating curriculum to develop the leadership skills of others, how could this be taught?
    I think it is fairly easy to understand the concept. Putting the concept into action could be a bit more difficult for some.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Margo Herman, Extension Center For Youth DevelopmentMay 23, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    It is no doubt doggedly intentional work to move toward the new model.
    In our Leadership Matters Course we provide an example of exemplary youth work supervision then have participants start to map out HOW and WHEN they meet with their staff, considering some of the ideas from the example. Throughout the course we have them create an Action Plan based on all the new tools we provide. New ways of interacting with staff hopefully become part of this Action Plan.
    My other thought is observing others that are great role models and could perhaps serve as a mentor. It is an ideal way to learn.
    Thanks for the interchange.

  8. Mark,
    I really liked the article....Good job keep it up.

  9. Your use of the metaphor of a binocular is very powerful and thought-provoking. I also think it highlights that we look at situations through our own lenses of power and culture. What a great image to bring that all together.

  10. Hi Mark!
    Wow, I just learned so much. Thank you for sharing this- especially the article, "Leading Through Conversations."
    I would add something else: take time to reflect. Leaders are visionaries and forward-thinking, but a big part of that is to learn from mistakes and look backwards too. I realize that this point may be included under some of the other points (maybe conversations?) and I may have missed it without proper context. But once I started incorporating reflection into my daily routine, I noticed it made a huge difference in our work culture. Almost everyday of teaching, my staff would meet for fifteen to thirty minutes to journal and just ask each other, "How did it go?". We first would journal some notes about the day and then share them and I was surprised the ideas and insights that came out of those daily collaborative sessions. But more importantly, it allowed all of us a few minutes to breathe and to actually think about the work that we had done and how to improve it, rather than just rushing into preparing for the next day or the next big project or achieving the next big goal. This daily routine of stopping and reflecting was like a long drink of water.

  11. Michelle,
    Thank you so much for posting this addition to the blog! I agree that reflection is as important as the other suggestions. I truly appreciate your comment showing your plan to "think about the work that we (have) done and how to improve it". This is something that could be done after a presentation, a teaching session, a meeting with others, or a major event, the end of a program year.
    When you lead your staff through the experience do you probe with any standard questions other than "How did it go?" I'd love to learn how you have led others through this reflective process!

  12. This is a good stuff. Thanks. It is not easy to be a good leader. One thing I found is useful is reflection. Can I do this in a better way? Do I have other approaches to achieve the goal? So, I can learn from my own mistake to improve my leadership skills. :)


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