Vision, or being forward-thinking, is one of the most important characteristics of admired leaders. Effective leaders have a natural talent for being able to paint a clear picture of where the team or organization is headed. According to John Kotter, a distinguished Harvard Professor and author, the vision statements of quality leaders are “clear, desirable, and feasible.” So, if you are a follower of an effective leader with vision, it is “clear” to you where you are headed, the vision itself is “desirable” to you, and you believe it is “feasible” to achieve.
I have read many articles on vision statements and how to write them, and have discovered the most effective statements are short and easy to remember. Two years ago my daughter introduced me to the “six-word memoir” and since then I have wondered if we could apply this same concept to leader vision statements.
Six-Word Memoir. According to the book Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Smith and Fershleiser, the concept behind the “Six-word memoir” originated with Ernest Hemingway. Because Hemingway was so wordy in his writing, supposedly his publisher challenged him to write a six-word story. Hemingway allegedly took the challenge and wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” When you take a few moments to think about this very short story, you realize how clever it is. Of course the story is what happens between the six words and each of us can imagine what that story is. In recent years this has morphed into a very popular activity, practiced by many, called the “Six-Word Memoir.” You can get 6-word statements on Twitter and in a number of other places.
Six-Word Vision Statements. For a few years now I have challenged my leadership students to write six-word vision statements. It has become quite popular and easy for students to understand when I use this example from President Kennedy. As we all know, one of the most famous and well-publicized vision statements was John Kennedy’s, “I believe this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Of course this statement is nearly perfect – it is clear, desirable, and, obviously, feasible. So I asked myself, could this statement be made in six words? And I wrote, “Man to moon, back again, safely.” Yes, it isn’t as passionate and lacks a time horizon, but otherwise captures the vision.
I’m a fan of the New England Patriots and the leadership of Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick. We know their vision for the Patriots is to win Super Bowls. So, their six-word vision statement could be “Win Super Bowl, year after year.”
So, as you think about your leadership or your life, what is your six word vision statement?