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Building Innovative Leadership – Putting Vision Into Action

During the month of December 2012, we will be posting a blog series focused on helping leaders define their personal vision. If you plan annual goals, this series of exercises may serve as a helpful foundation. Each week you will see another post designed to guide you in identifying what is most important to you. First, you will define your future, and from that vantage point, clarify your vision and values. You will then consider what you want to do professionally, as well as the type and extent of the impact you want to have on the world. We will also provide examples from Demetrius and Jonathan, both emerging leader during this blog series. This blog series is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers and also part of our comprehensive leadership development program.
After defining and clarifying your vision and values (see prior blog posts), the next step is to reflect on how to put them into action. You will consider the things you care about most, as well as your innate talents and skills to determine what about your current life you would like to refine, or even change. You are probably passionate about specific interests or areas within your life; if you’re really fortunate, you will have opportunities to participate in one or more of those areas.
The purpose of this exercise is to consider how best to incorporate your passions into how you make a living. You likely have passions that will always remain in the realm of hobbies; the main point of the exercise is to move closer to identifying your passions and expressing them in as many areas of life as possible.
In our experience, part of figuring out what you want to do is paying attention to what you find profoundly interesting. Those interests simply reveal themselves in the course of your daily interaction with peers and colleagues, and quite frequently at business functions. They are reflected in whatever you find yourself reading; they even display themselves in the context of more casual occasions, and are often seen in activities shared among friends.
This is the type of exercise that appears very simple on the surface, and may be something you revisit annually in order to refresh what is genuinely important to you. We find that revisiting allows you to nurture a sense of continual clarity about your direction. Iteration provides a mechanism for clarifying your direction as you grow and develop. With everything you try (false starts and all) you will discover a deeper truth about yourself that moves you closer to your most authentic passions. Some of those passions will be incorporated into your career; other passions help shape your personal life.
Putting Vision Into Action Exercise
Step 1: Identify your foundation. Answer the three questions below by compiling a list of responses to each.
What are you passionate about? This will come from the prior exercise and should now be relatively concise.
What meets your economic needs?
What can you be great at?
Note: your answers to these questions should reflect your values from the Personal Values Checklist (see blog post from last week).
Step 2: Review and identify overlap. Review your answers and identify the overlaps.
Step 3: Harvest the ideas. Based on the overlaps, do you see anything that might be incorporated in what you do or how you work? This could mean adding an additional service line to an existing business or allocating a portion of your work time to a project that is aligned with your values.
Jonathan’s Response to Putting Vision into Action Exercise
Jonathan graduated from the University of Urbana in 2011. He is a graduate of the LeaderShape program where he initially clarified his personal vision. He is founder and president of Illini Prosthetic Technologies (IPT) technologies, which he started in 2008. IPT’s focus is to re-enable amputees around the world with simple, innovative, and affordable solutions. He now provides technical and business leadership to operations in Latin America, and interfaces IPT with hospitals, clinics, and NGOs.
Step 1: Identify your foundation. Answer the three questions below by compiling a list of responses to each.
What are you passionate about? I am passionate about global problems and solutions (especially in regards to health), socially-minded organizations, employing science and engineering to solve problems, teaching others to make an impact, writing and speaking in public, my family life, my faith life, working and visiting new parts of the world.
What meets your economic needs? I can make a solid living from becoming an expert on global health problems and solutions.
What can you be great at? I can be really great at leading socially-minded organizations and efforts which are working to solve global health issues.
Step 2: Review and identify overlap. My answers to “what I can be great at,” “what meets my economic needs,” and “what am I passionate about” all line up very nicely with my revised vision statement. They all also implicitly involve the top three values I chose, as well as the original ten which I started with.
Step 3: Harvest the ideas. For me, this analysis is really a reaffirmation of the work I am currently doing with the nonprofit organization that I founded and for which I now work fulltime. This does give me solid direction for my personal future following my current mission with this organization, as I begin to apply to graduate schools in the field of public health and think about where I am headed in the five to ten-year timeframe in my global health work. Looking at this is very important for me because it helps me to know what experiences I need to get prior to starting graduate school so that I can use that education to position myself in the niche of the global health community about which I am most passionate.
Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative and effective leader? If so, take this free online Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale. If you are looking for tools to help develop your ability to be an innovative leader, check out the 2012 International Book Award winning Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Metcalf & Associates, Inc., offers assessments, coaching, and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative and effective leaders and improve your organizational success.

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