Inspire a Shared Vision: How to Create a Common Purpose

Jul 20, 2021

When was the last time you imagined the possibilities? Whether it was about the cabin you dream of building, the community food shelf you want to start, or how you want to leverage your expertise at work to start an outreach program with that nonprofit in your community, did you know that by dreaming big you were starting to employ the second of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® – Inspire a Shared Vision?

Leaders who take the time to envision the future, and share that vision with their people, have a tremendous impact on the motivational levels of others, as well as workplace productivity. While dreaming big at work may be more about where you want to go as an organization (or within your organization) and less about that cabin in the woods, learning how to tap into that tendency to imagine the possibilities is a big step on your journey to exemplary leadership.

How Do I Create a Vision for the Future?

Creating a vision for the future involves thoughtfully reflecting on both the past and the present to define the patterns, trends, and themes that have defined your life until this point. It is when you have done those steps that you can look to the future and create the vision that will drive you, and your organization, forward.


Reflect on Your Past

Though the idea of looking to the past to inform the future may seem counterintuitive, looking to your personal history to reflect on where you’ve been is an important step in grounding yourself for your journey forward. It’s easy to be so future focused that we don’t take time to reflect on how we got to where we are. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner say in The Leadership Challenge, “Your personal history is your traveling partner on every journey you take.”

Ask Yourself Infographic

Prospect Your Future

“Leadership requires you to spend considerable time reading, thinking, and talking about the long-term view, not only for your specific organization but also for the environments in which you’re operating,” Kouzes and Posner say in The Leadership Challenge. After you’ve taken time to reflect on your past and tend to the present, it’s time to prospect your future. This is where those big dreams you’ve been ruminating upon come into play. What are your goals? When you look to the future of your role or organization, what do you see?

Prospect Future Infographic

Express Your Passion

When you think to the future you’ve envisioned, what do you feel? It should be excitement, motivation, and passion. When you put in the time to not only dream up a future you want but strategize how to get there, you have already started to express your passion for the future. Leaders who express conviction and enthusiasm about the future, no matter their role or title, are consistently seen as more effective. Leaders who wake up and hit the ground running towards their vision are leaders that people love to rally behind.

Express Passion Infographic

Find a Common Purpose

Everyone should feel passionate about the work they do and the organization they do it for. Regardless of your particular role or title, you have the power to adopt these leadership behaviors and build the skills necessary to become a leader from wherever you are. Leadership is not limited to those holding a prestigious title or leading the vision for the entire organization, individuals at all levels can envision the future of their role or department and contribute to the common cause. This input can provide valuable perspective that could take an already ambitious and exciting goal to the next level.

How can leaders find a common purpose with their people? Once you have shared your vision, ask your people what their vision for the future of your organization is. Listen when they share their unique perspective; you may find they provide an alternate way of thinking that could propel your vision forward or share challenges you were previously unaware of.

Make a Cause for Commitment

Finding purpose in your work is a universal desire and when your people feel as though their contributions and dreams have a place in your shared vision, they will be more inclined to commit to your mutual goals. Brainstorm together how you can achieve your dreams and Inspire a Shared Vision. When you have arrived at these goals together, it will be far easier to get through difficult times because everyone is committed to the common cause.

Like any skill, inspiring a shared vision takes consistent self-reflection, commitment, and practice. Through utilizing the behaviors outlined in the second of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, you can take another step towards becoming an exemplary leader.

As you embark on your journey to become an exemplary leader, the Leadership Practices Inventory® (LPI®) assessment can guide the process. The LPI measures how frequently each individual exercises The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership and with this information, individuals at any level and in any organization can identify exactly where they excel as leaders and where they have opportunities to improve. Learn more at The Leadership Challenge.

The Leadership Challenge, Copyright © 2017 by James M Kouzes and Barry Posner

Share This Post

Unlock Leadership Today - Try the
LPI: Leadership Practices Inventory for Free!

Newsletter Icon