Setting a Clear, Compelling Vision

The Vision Thing

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership


The voters believed that President George H.W. Bush had the experience, judgment, integrity, and a steady hand for his office. He knew “how” to get things done. However, he struggled with, in his words, “the vision thing.”

Every leader knows that to inspire people to follow them, they need a compelling vision. Simon Sinek called it the “why.” Nietzsche also calls it the “why.”

“Nietzsche says that he who has a ‘why’ to live for can endure any ‘how.’ “
—Brooks, David. The Second Mountain (p. 30). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Setting a clear, compelling vision.

As I reflect on my time in the corporate world, my experience is that while we could often get employees to do things, keeping them engaged required a clear, compelling purpose or vision.


Every year, Gallup does a survey and finds that 70% +/- 2% of U.S. employees are disengaged. They go about their work, collect their paycheck, but do what we ask of them and nothing more. There is no initiative. When things get tough, and long hours are required, disengaged people become less effective—their productivity, low to begin with, craters.

However, as Nietzsche suggested, those employees who had a compelling vision or “why” not only took up the challenge but relished the hard work.


I clearly remember how I, and my engineering teammates, reacted to two very different scenarios. In the first, management told us that our company had to demonstrate that we were working as hard as possible to complete a government contract.  Management admitted that we were on time, under budget, and had met all the quality requirements for the product we were delivering.

Yet, to show the general contractor that we would do our part, we were asked to work every Saturday for an additional eight hours. Most of us were okay with that since the company paid us time and a half for those eight hours. Soon, however, we were working slower during the week and saving work for Saturday so that spending time away from our families was justified.

The second situation was quite different. One product we provided was critical for an electric peak-power generator. Management made sure we knew that we would be working long hours in the field to correct a situation that was leaving families without heat in the dead of winter. We did indeed work those long hours—happily and without anyone feeling “put upon.” Instead, we had visions of our families without heat. We knew we would want other professionals to put in the extra effort for us.


We keep doing the same thing (or not doing what we know we should) and expecting different results. I believe that if leaders spent time crafting a compelling vision of why our company does what it does, we would find the Gallup Survey changing positively—more engaged employees.

Creating clarity of vision is critical for a high-functioning team. How are you doing with the vision thing?