Brad Thurman, PE, FSMPS, CPSM
As Chief Marketing Officer, Brad directs marketing and business development for Wallace Engineering. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and Master of…View Profile
Vision is tricky business.
Open any business management book and chances are you’ll find a mandate for establishing a strong vision and mission for your firm – and for good reason. It’s crazy to set off on a trip until you know where you want to go and how you want to get there. You wouldn’t do that in a car, so why would you do it with your business?
But clearly defining why you exist isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds. Distilling thoughts into a succinct, cohesive statement that both delineates a vision and inspires action is a difficult task, regardless of how much you believe in your firm. And sometimes it seems like the terms “vision” and “mission” have been hijacked and diluted through the corporate realization process. It becomes a matter of course for companies…something you have to do instead of want to do.
I prefer a different word: passion.
To explain, I have to point to the defining goal of my childhood years – the Moon. Speaking before Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy outlined a goal that was unlike anything his predecessors had set. He said, “I believe that 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.” Three months later, in a speech at Rice University, Kennedy elaborated:
“We choose to go to the Moon and other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”
Kennedy did more than establish a goal – he gave passion a voice. That passion was heard and felt by everyone involved with the Apollo program. Sure, all of the scientists and engineers and visionaries involved had distinct goals and missions that they executed during the process. But they were passionate about it. They had to be. And on July 20, 1969, with only 164 days left in the decade, Apollo 11 became the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon.
Churchill, Gandhi, King, Kennedy – history is full of leaders who were more than simply eloquent at stating a vision; they were passionate about seeing those visions achieved. If you think about the people who have inspired you the most, I expect that it was the passion that they brought to their beliefs that defined them.
But make no mistake about it. Passion comes with a price: vulnerability.
To truly lay out what you believe and how passionately you believe it, you have to make yourself vulnerable. You have to understand that there will be criticism and apathy and even derision. You have to accept that there will be people who can’t or won’t accept it, and you have to have the will to move forward anyway.
Vulnerability is an underappreciated characteristic of leadership…in business and in life.
So what do you think? Do vision and mission still matter? Is there worth in executing a plan that you don’t believe in even if the goal is noble? What defines vision? We’d love your thoughts.