And I know I've written before about how difficult that can be. Sometimes the way forward isn't at all clear, even to the leader, and sometimes he or she forgets how important it is to communicate it over and over again. Especially when the vision requires the organization or the people within it to change, communicating the vision once is never enough. It has to be communicated and re-communicated time and time again, else forces conscious and unconscious within the organization will drift back towards the status quo.
But sometimes, even leaders who have communicated their vision, and have re-communicated it multiple times, will find themselves in situations where they themselves will question whether or not the vision has to be re-communicated again. Seriously, they may think. We've talked about this five or six times already. Do I have to spell this out again? What are you not getting?
If you find yourself in this situation, recognize that it is a warning sign. And the challenge before you is to figure out what the nature of the warning is.
First, as repetitive as the action may seem, take a step back and reflect. Is this another opportunity to communicate your vision? To clarify what it is the organization is trying to achieve and what the essential steps to getting there are? Resistance to change is tenacious, and it is not always willful and disloyal. It never hurts to reinforce what is required and what your expectations are.
But after you've done that, you need to spend some time thinking about the true nature of the obstacle before you. As much as you may not want to admit it, there can be people, both in and out of the organization, who will oppose your vision. After all your communications, they will understand where you are leading the organization, but they will still disagree with it. They will quite simply think you are wrong, and that the old way or their own way is the better way.
What you do in these situations can be one of the most difficult tests of your leadership. When I'm confronted with such a situation, I usually ask myself where my greater loyalties lie--with the vision, or with the relationship that I've built.
The answer isn't always be the same. My vision doesn't always win, but my future actions will be governed by whichever answer I come up with. Sometimes, it is impossible to save both the vision and the relationship, and one has to be sacrificed for the other.
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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.