In my book, Leading through Change: six principles for leading people in unpredictable times, I discuss how important it is for any leader to have a vision. Surprisingly enough, creating a vision can be a very difficult task for leaders. I have spoken to managers who didn’t go further than expressing that they wanted to grow their organization from good to excellent.

That is of course a beautiful goal. But what the heck is an excellent organization? What does that look like? Without giving any specifics or creating that famous picture of how that excellent will look like, nobody in the organization will know the outcome and certainly not what direction to take to get there. Needless to say, they are lost about what decisions or acts will realize that vision. It will be like a ship sailing out of the harbor looking for an excellent destination with everybody on board having a different destination in mind.

Result: confusion all over the place.

Result: miscommunication

Result: you will never get there.

Your organization might become better but you will never realize your vision of excellence.

To complicate matters a strong and clear vision that really creates a picture of the final destination is not enough for being a successful leader.

Another component is needed.

That component is connection.

As a leader you need to connect with your employees. That explains why a disastrous expedition to the South Pole – they lost the ship and were stranded on ice with three small lifeboats, a couple of tents, and some supplies – became a masterpiece of leadership.

After the disaster of losing the ship Ernest Shackleton knew that his original vision – walk across the continent, starting from the coast of the Weddell Sea, travel across the South Pole to finish at the Ross Sea – was no longer viable. He quickly created a new strong vision. His vision was bringing his men home alive. All of them.

He REALIZED his vision by CONNECTING with each member of his crew. He accepted full responsibility for how he connected, not only with his words, also in the way he carried himself, and interacted with his men. He embodied and connected from a strong belief in his end goal – no one would die on this trip. He kept his men’s focus on the future: we all will survive.

He realized his vision. On Aug. 30, 1916, he wrote his wife Emily, “I have done it. “Not a life lost, and we have been through hell.”

Every leader needs a vision. But a vision in itself is not enough. To realize that vision they connect with their employees. That’s a choice of the heart.

Coaching question of the week:

Are you setting yourself up to be successful in leadership?