By Barry Maher
We hear so much about leadership, and we all know leadership starts with vision. Take for example, Japanese industrialist Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic. In 1932, Matsushita told his 1,100 employees, “The mission of a manufacturer is to overcome poverty, to relieve society as a whole from misery and bring it wealth. Beginning today, this far-reaching dream, this sacred calling, will be our ideal and our mission, and its fulfillment the responsibility of each one of us.”
You can certainly disagree with Matsushita’s conception of a manufacturing company’s mission. You can argue whether or not Panasonic ever actually tried to live up to this ideal. But what you can’t deny is that this is a clear, dramatic mission statement that employees could find worthy of rallying around, worthy of devoting their shared effort to. And you can’t deny the company’s success in becoming the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics.
It’s certainly a lot better than what was provided by the owner of one floundering furniture manufacturer.
“Vision?” his second in commanded wondered. “Lee doesn’t have a clue where he wants the company to go. But he’s inordinately proud of the fact that he’s willing to work himself and all the rest of us to death to get there.”
Then there’s the cigarette company Janette Hawthorne worked for. “When it came to noble sentiments, their mission statement read like U.N. Charter. It could have been written by Thomas Jefferson. Or Mother Theresa. Coming from this particular company, it was a sick joke and that’s the way everyone treated it.”
Vision without substance is not vision, it’s illusion. Illusion has no long-term motivating power. It’s worse than no vision at all because it creates distrust and cynicism. And vision is a two way street. It comes down from the top of the corporate ladder. But it should also rise up from the individuals who make up the company. Each of whom should have a vision for what they’d like their life to be.
The more compatible those two visions are, the more powerful the total effect will be.
People love to feel they’re part of something special. Great organizations and great leaders help them feel that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, part of a team. The more being part of that team gels with the vision they have for their own life, the easier this will be.
Former Secretary of Labor, Robert B. Reich, talks about what he calls, the pronoun test. He asks employees about the company they work for. “If the answers I get back describe the company in terns like they and them, then I know it’s one kind of company. If the answers are put in terms like we or us, I know it’s a different kind of company.”