Visionary Leadership... “Seeing Beyond the Present”
This month, I’d like to share a few things I have learned about visionary leadership. Leaders who can see beyond the present have vision. Those leaders who have a dream for their centers and can see down the road to an end goal are more likely to get there than someone who follows the philosophy of “come what may.”
What do you think of when you hear the words “visionary leader”?
- A. R. Bernard, CEO of Christian Cultural Center, has said, “If you don’t have a vision for the future, then your future is threatened to be a repeat of the past.” I have heard it said so many times that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail, or if you keep doing things the same way they have always been done, you cannot expect different results.
As leaders, we must exercise our faith and believe God for help in order to see the dream He has given us become a reality. How do you envision the future of your ministry? I have described this process by thinking of a child at the beach who is building a sand castle. As he is molding the sand and making an effort to build the castle, he is following a mental picture of the finished castle as seen in his mind.
In order for us to get clarity of the picture in our minds, I would like to suggest a few questions to ask yourself that will help you project your vision.
- Where would I like our ministry to be five years from now?
- What will it take to make this ministry a better organization?
- Where are our greatest opportunities, our greatest challenges, and threats?
- What are the needs that keep us from accomplishing this goal?
- What are the personnel needs I will have when I complete this vision?
- What additional funding will be needed to accomplish this goal?
Let me share some good quotes that always excite me about vision and the potential of Global Teen Challenge.
- “One of the great strengths of a non-profit organization is that people don’t work for a living, they work for a cause.” Peter Drucker
- “Vision for ministry is a reflection of what God wants to accomplish through you to build His kingdom.” George Barna
- “I’m nothing but a pencil in God’s hands. He can write with me whatever He chooses.” Mother Teresa
- “A leader is someone who redefines the possible through noble objectives and then pursues them with such intensity that he/she carries other people with him/her.” John Ashcroft
Visionary leaders are self-disciplined.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a visionary leader is self-discipline. Visionary leaders lead themselves before attempting to lead others. It is critical that our spiritual growth keep pace with growth in leadership skills, and that includes consistently acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus in our lives.
What is the state of your spiritual life in relationship to the vision for the future?
What are you doing to improve your leadership skills and the leadership skills of your team?
- Who do you spend time with?
- Ken Blanchard has said, "You can’t fly with the eagles if you live among the buzzards.”
- What do you read? How often do you read?
- Your attitude
- Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
- Are you a leader who has others following you, or are you alone in this effort?
In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” What was Paul saying? I think he is saying the moment he received a vision from God, fulfilling that vision became the pressing priority of his life. Whatever personal agenda he had gave way to the call of God. Paul lived that vision as far as any leader can -- to his death.
When God asks leaders to subordinate their own personal agendas in order to fulfill the vision He has given them, He knows that if they do that, they will never be sorry.
In my experience, God never gives you the entire picture. He just gives you enough and says, “Follow Me.” Then, the picture develops as we walk out our faith. If God gives you a kingdom vision, if you see it clearly and feel it deeply, you had better take responsibility for it.
Knowing your call, dream, or vision will keep you grounded no matter the circumstances. When hard times come, and they will, your call will keep you. Going back to that place where you originally heard the voice of God will be the anchor for fulfilling the dream that is passionately burning in your soul.
Visionary leaders challenge the status quo.
Vision always sees beyond the present. Your past experience in life is not the context you want to allow to restrict your envisioned future. Author John Maxwell writes, “If you don’t like the crop you are reaping, then you need to change the seed you are sowing.”
Bill McCartney said, “One of the reasons that people don’t realize their dreams is that they desire to change their results without changing their thinking.” Many fail to see the fulfillment of their dream because they try to shape the dream within the context of their life experience. It’s easy to put God in the box of your experience.
I learned a long time ago that you become like those with whom you spend time. You grow up if you spend time with those who challenge you upward. You grow downward when you hang around those who think downward.
I believe Teen Challenge (TC) is at a critical time in its history. I believe we will adapt and grow into a better organization, or we will get stuck in a rut and eventually go the way of many other organizations that fail to adapt to change.
Adapt is a key word here. It is so easy to do what we have always done, because we are comfortable in the process; but adaptation forces us to continuously improve, which is easier said in the word, “change.” Change is work. It requires that everyone adapt to new ways of thinking, working, and processing.
Many of the key leaders in TC worldwide are seasoned and advanced in their years. Most have no succession plan in place and no one who is being trained or mentored to carry the torch. Why? It is either the result, or combination, of culture, insecurity, lack of training, or lack of envisioning the future.
How do we change that? If our envisioned future is to be better tomorrow than it is today, we own the responsibility. You and I are responsible to do our part in the process. The key word here is process. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
We win by developing a learning environment. When we learn, grow, train, envision the future, and share that with the team we are leading, we will assure a legacy that will last. There is a price to pay for developing a learning culture. Seminars, books, education, and people development can be costly, but it’s worth the investment many times over.
I understand that it’s a challenge to influence every TC center in the world, but we can influence ours. We can make the necessary changes to our centers and envision what we want to become, and leave a legacy that lasts.
Visionary leaders are committed to a set of core values.
Have you defined yours? We can find the perfect list of core values in 1 Timothy 3, where the overseers and deacons are people of integrity, compassion, stewardship, faith, servanthood, and vision. These values are lived out daily in our normal, everyday activities and interactions with our families, our team and in our community.
Visionary leaders develop the right team.
You will never grow your organization beyond the talents and gifts of your team. If you build a strong team, you can delegate and grow. If you control and own every decision, you will never outgrow yourself. This is limited thinking. Insecurity is the enemy of visionary leadership. Remember:
- Everyone on the team matters and their input is valued.
- Always invest in leadership training.
- “We” can do more than “I.”
Visionary leaders strategically plan.
It’s a well-known fact that people follow people. They love to be with someone who is going somewhere that matters and makes a difference in society.
If you plan, you have accountability to the boundaries of that plan. More can be accomplished, because you have a clear picture and direction of how you want to move down the road. Planning also gives you and your team the joy of direction, goals, targets, and benchmarks that allow you to celebrate along the journey. Remember, if you shoot at nothing, you always hit your target.
Visionary leaders must see beyond the present.
Ask yourself, “Where do I want this ministry to be in two years, five years, and beyond?” Practical thoughts to consider as you are looking beyond your present are:
- Give some thought to how we do this work. Would a day program be more effective, less expensive to operate, and provide a greater service to more people in more locations?
- What does an effective outpatient program look like? Will that allow us to work with more addicts than we are currently working with?
- How should our training of leaders look in the future? How might we improve our training process, tools, and model?
- What do we want our student ministry, family ministry, outreach tools, and ministry to look like?
- What does it look like to put hope within reach of every addict in my country, region, or city?
- What does it look like to put hope within reach of every addict online?
Global Teen Challenge has been working diligently on our vision to put hope within reach of every addict. We have some exciting visionary goals that we are close to realizing. We are also developing an app that all current and future graduates can use to help them stay in touch with their peers and friends from Teen Challenge. Keep us in your prayers and make a point of becoming a visionary leader yourself.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge