“A large chair does not make a king.” – Sudanese proverb
There is something about the concept of vision that is so inspiring, so energising and so divine it fills the lungs of a people with an extraordinary drive to live and to flourish. It is something beyond knowledge, and broader than the locus of possibility. It is in a realm of its own, with a force so powerful it can harness the talents, abilities and ambitions of a people to do that which was previously not thought of – and that which seemed impossible. A vision salves souls and gives a people the self-permission to live meaningfully and wonderfully.
That is why the real difference between the developed societies and undeveloped ones is the presence or absence of a vision. It is the same with organisations. A vision is the ‘thing’ that drives us to present the best of ourselves in the highest form, and heightens our senses till we rise above ourselves. When it is absent, we are so ordinary we perform below our capabilities. Visions determine the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, from what we are worthy or unworthy of to what we can do or not do. This understanding of vision is what makes lacking it a detriment to a society.
Interestingly, many of us are quick to attribute under-development to a host of challenges instead of a lack of vision. This blame attitude only serves to save the face of leadership; because whichever way you look at it, the challenges in under-developed societies occur because people are not working toward – and for – a singular purpose. When you do not work for a vision or toward one, you behave live a river without a path. You flow anywhere and anyhow, and you will be so thin the world will not have any use for you. Thus, in a vision-less society, while the individuals may be highly productive on their own, the fact that they are not collectively focusing their energies means that society as a whole cannot achieve the much-needed synergy.
As Christian scripture points out, “where there is no vision, the people perish”. The perishing happens because of the people’s uncoordinated thinking and actions, thus cultivating a chaos that only creates an insecurity which brings out the greed in many. And where greed lives, the people are inhibited from thriving. It creates a self-limiting attitude because many believe ingenuity and creativity will not bring about any merit. Instead, what one needs to rise in society is to know people and be known by them. Thus, we create a cycle wherein we have to use people to get what we need, which makes it difficult for us to trust. And where there is no trust nothing can be done well, for many will be unwilling to make sacrifices as they will not be appreciated.
Where there is no vision, the people become purposeless. And without purpose we behave more like stooges than as a creative force. It is a lack of vision that makes people do things just to tick the boxes. Is it thus strange that in underdeveloped societies most of the people do not pursue their passions? They merely work and “go in to work every day to simply keep the machine on the road, maintain the systems, and balance the books”. Most often, they are so disenchanted with their work and their lives that they are immune to unethicality. They can easily participate in corruption without remorse.
Without a vision to drive their lives, many individuals do not expect much out of life and thus cultivate a lackadaisical attitude toward progress and development. And let us be fair to them – if one does not know where the whole is heading, what would be the inspiration to expect much? They cannot even tell the world how to treat them; so much so that the world treats them poorly, which contributes to the general low-esteem of individuals within the society. Life is about going somewhere. But when you do not know where you are going, you live anyway and anyhow. That is why leadership is more about carving a vision that empowers others, rather than merely occupying an office and drawing up policies.
The presence of a vision helps us feel connected to something larger than ourselves. Not only does it connect us to each other, but it also makes living and working meaningful. Without a vision, individuals are always in danger of becoming self-serving; an attitude that hurts both them and the larger society…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a trainer and life coach who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]