Your #1 Responsibility as a Leader

by | Aug 15, 2018

It’s not uncommon for a bigger business to have a vision statement.  

These statements often end up on a plaque or a poster of some kind in the lobby.  Most employees in these businesses have walked past the company’s vision statement countless times.  However, if you asked one of them to tell you about the company’s vision, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.

In my previous post, I mentioned Set the Vision as the number one responsibility of every great leader.  I’m going to share with you the best framework I’ve ever seen for setting a compelling vision.  This framework comes from Jim Collins and can be found in the first book he ever wrote as a co-author with his mentor, Bill Lazier, titled Beyond Entrepreneurship.

Side note: If you are a Jim Collins fan and you love small business, this just might become one of your favorite books!

Setting the Vision is not crafting some all-encompassing, forward-looking statement.  Rather, the way Jim and Bill teach it, Vision (with a capital ‘V’) is made up of three distinct parts: Purpose, Values, and Mission.


I believe Simon Sinek has it right when he advocates to “start with why”.  Whether in an organizational or personal effectiveness context, you need to be really clear about why you are doing something.  Other questions to elicit the right kind of thinking from you and your team might be… What’s our Purpose for being?  What’s the greater meaning behind what we do?  What’s the impact we want to have on the world?  What is our cause?  What is our why?

Once you get clear on the Purpose, it doesn’t change, and it guides all of your decision making.  As Jim Collins describes it, your Purpose becomes your guiding star. You don’t accomplish it. You simply align everything you do to it.


If Purpose is the ‘Why’, then Values are the ‘How’.  Values represent our core beliefs and our way of being.  The way you know what someone values is to watch their behaviors.  Once the Values are in place for your company, the essence (or core) should never change.

Ann Rhoades, a founding member of JetBlue and author of Built on Values, spoke at our August 2018 Elite Momentum event and reminded us that doing Values work is meaningless if you don’t identify the desired behaviors for each of the stated Values.

By now you’ll know it is no surprise that I love the way Jim Collins talks about identifying the Values of your organization.  He would describe it as an articulation exercise (describing what is) and not an aspirational exercise (writing what we hope to become).  As the leader, you may be tempted to do this work on your own or only with 2-3 key leaders. However, it will be far more effective if you enroll the people who are already the embodiment of the Values to help you put words to the way they consistently act.


Once the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ are clear, it’s time to define the ‘What’.  Nothing is more galvanizing to a team than a clearly stated, exciting objective.  Again, most organizations get this wrong. They hand a ‘Mission Statement’ on the wall that is more like a never-ending statement of work.

You’ll want to create a Current Mission that has a clearly-defined outcome by a specified date.  It may help to think of this in military terms… “Our objective is to take control of that hill before dawn!”  In other words, you will accomplish X specific objective by Y point in time.

Unlike your Purpose or Values, the Current Mission should be achievable, and, when you have completed it, you will create a new Mission.  I recommend selecting a specific time somewhere in the 3-5 year timeframe. 3 years is my preference. It needs to be close enough for people to be able to see themselves at the finish line but far enough away to leave enough runway to create a new future.  The Mission needs to be big enough to excite people and maybe even make them a little nervous (think BHAG) but grounded enough to keep belief of success high.

Clarity Accelerates Progress

We’ve taught hundreds of 7-figure businesses how to Set the Vision for their companies.  For the companies that have fully embraced and implemented this approach, the results have been nothing short of transformational.  We’ve seen many businesses 2x or 3x in revenue within 2-to-3 years once the leaders have enrolled their people in a powerful Vision.

How are you doing with your #1 responsibility as a leader?  How would your people say you are doing? Do all of your decisions and investments in people, processes and systems reflect alignment to the Purpose, Values and Mission of your organization?

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