I recently returned from a leadership conference with my newly elected student leaders. We bonded and created fun memories. We even made up a few new words that will stick with us throughout the next year. The conference and journey together gave us all increased momentum as we anticipated what we wanted to accomplish in the near future.
Each new student leader comes to the table with hopes and dreams and ideas. We all have some sense of what we want our year in student leadership to look like.
This is called vision. It’s the ability to see in our mind what we want to happen in reality. It is a preferred future that doesn’t exist yet…but it could.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
- Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) 1st Prime Minister Of India
I want to encourage you to think of the possibilities that next year holds. Use your imagination. Identify your options. Stretch your assumptions.
If you are in a student leadership position (or any leadership position for that matter) you need to have a clear and concise vision of what you want to accomplish. Leadership requires direction. Direction requires a destination. Vision is what answers the question everyone on your team will ask at one point or another: Where are we going?
Here are three practical exercises you can use to assist in formulating your vision.
1. Create your end-of-the-year speech.
As this year is coming to a close, think about what you want the end of next year to look like. Imagine you are standing up in front of your team and all of those whom you have served. What do you hope to be saying? How will you describe your events and activities? Who will you be thanking? How do you want everyone to be feeling about the year? The speech you create for the end of the year should shape the things you accomplish during the year.
2. Put your BIG events on the calendar now.
Every year students get super busy and start living from event to event. It’s inevitable. Your vision should impact your calendar. So put your big events on the calendar and then work backwards from each event. Identify what needs to be accomplished one, two, three, and four weeks before those events occur and put those things on the calendar as well. Most teams get derailed throughout the course of the year because they don’t have someone keeping an eye on the big picture. That’s your job as a leader. Your calendar will serve as a map — making sure you do what you planned on doing in the midst of day to day chaos.
3. Develop a theme.
Figure out a word or phrase that connects each person on your team to the group’s mission and values. Keep it simple and easy to remember. We tend to be forgetful, especially when life gets busy. Constantly communicate this theme. Post it on the walls. Put it on a tshirt. Use it when you communicate with your team. The theme serves as a compass throughout the year. It reminds each person why they’re doing what they’re doing. It connects them together under a common purpose or cause.
For example, this year our student leaders used the theme: Are you In? They identified three words to guide their work: Involve. Invest. Inspire.
The more you can get your team involved and invested in capturing the vision for the year the better. Make sure that your vision is not your best kept secret. Capturing your vision is only helpful if you spend the rest of the year communicating it and pursuing it together.