Authentic Leadership Starts with Sharing a Vision: 3 Steps to Team Alignment

Through authentic leadership, create a shared vision that everyone is aligned on by ensuring the people you lead can answer three key questions: Where are we going? What do we need to get there? What is my role?

One of my favorite quotes is from Sheryl Sandberg: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” 

Leaders have the opportunity to make other peoples’ lives better. We can actively look for abilities to nurture. We can serve as mentors. We can empower the people we lead.  Then, our leadership becomes lasting in our absence and our organization grows.

I call this approach authentic leadership, which I believe has three main components: vision, relationships, and courage. In this series, I’ll break down each component, starting with creating alignment around a shared vision.

Sharing a Vision and Creating Alignment 

“I just don’t get why we are doing this.” If you hear something like this from your team, you’ve got a vision problem.

Unfortunately, people don’t always speak up when they don’t understand what the organization is trying to accomplish. They may shrug and press on without knowing where you are trying to go.

So don’t be afraid to ask. You may need to communicate the vision more often and more clearly to build understanding.

When people within your organization are aligned around a shared vision, they will be able to answer three key questions: 

  • Where are we going? 
  • What do we need to get there? 
  • What is my role? 

As a leader of an organization or team, you are accountable for ensuring the people you lead gain this clarity.

Where are we going? 

Our family built a home 25 years ago. We loved the design of the front of another house we visited, so we gave the builder a photo of it.

When our home was finished, we marveled at how it looked exactly the way we’d envisioned it. Our builder replied matter-of-factly, “Well, you gave me a picture of what you wanted.” Having the vision made it easy to get there. 

Without a vision, people can’t see what they’re working toward.

What is the vision of your company or team? What does success look like — in a day, in a month, in a year? What does that finished product look like, and when is it expected to be delivered? 

When you’re able to clearly articulate what success looks like and communicate it with your team, it makes things easier for everyone. Everyone can visualize it as if they’re looking at a photo. Knowing what success looks like helps them answer the next two questions. 

What do we need to get there? 

Next, you’ll need to collaborate on the strategy and steps to execute your vision. What needs to happen to achieve success?

Get input from the team to identify what resources are needed, such as budget or additional knowledge or skills. The team can also weigh in on changes you’ll need to make in existing processes. 

If the vision requires work that’s additional to normal responsibilities, it’s important to think through how success can be achieved while continuing to deliver on what’s expected. Team conversations are critical for creating a shared understanding of what is needed to succeed.

What is my role? 

Everyone from the frontline worker who was hired yesterday to the leader of the organization should have a clear understanding of the role they play in moving toward the vision. This includes understanding how their role impacts the ability of others to be successful. 

Does everyone know what they’re individually responsible for and the timelines for each step along the way? How do we keep ourselves accountable? 

I’m a big fan of empowering people to understand the bigger picture and make commitments on what they’ll do. It encourages them to be part of the discussion — they’ve agreed to do something instead of the leader putting that expectation on them. 

From there, we need to create structures for both accountability and support. Here’s one approach we teach as part of our Manager Development Course, which empowers managers with skills and tools to build high-performing teams.

As the team moves from vision and planning to action, use these four questions to support your progress:

  1. Did you do what you said you were going to do? 
  2. If not, what happened and when can you recommit? 
  3. How does your failure to deliver impact other parts of the team, and how do we address that?
  4. What can we help you with to be successful? 

We’re a team. We succeed together and we fail together. 

As leaders, our role is to align our organization around a shared vision. Fundamentally, I believe that if we all understand where we’re going, what we need to do to get there, and what our role and commitments are, it becomes straightforward. 

Sharing a vision and creating alignment is just one component of authentic leadership. Stay tuned for parts two and three of this series for more insights. Next week, we’ll look at how building relationships are a key part of authentic leadership.

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