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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Visionary Leaders

Buzz words. Business is full of them, and they change constantly. Two sets of buzz words have been with us for awhile, and I want to talk about them today: leadership and vision statements.

I think we are all pretty clear on what a leader is. Even if the leader is not a very good one, we still understand the concept of leadership, that a leader is someone who gets others to follow him or her in a good or bad direction. How we become better leaders is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and I certainly have not come up with all the definitive answers.

We also understand that we need leaders in order to move forward, to make progress, to inspire, to motivate, and to set an example. We need followers too, but that is a discussion for another Monday Morning Check In.

Teachers are leaders. Parents, you are also teachers, so count yourself in the teacher group too. Not only are teachers the leaders of the next generation (and beyond), but they are also leaders of the current generation, including colleagues and members of the larger social circle. Teachers can potentially influence and lead an exponential number of people. The big question is: how do we teachers become the best possible leaders that we can be?

“What you see is what you can be.” John Maxwell wrote this in The Maxwell Daily Reader. Mr. Maxwell refers to our potential. What can we see about ourselves? What is our vision?

I agree with Mr. Maxwell that a vision comes first in order for a good leader to emerge. “People do what people see.” In order to motivate others, a leader must have a vision, be willing to implement that vision, and be able to communicate effectively about how to follow the vision. The leader must be responsible for how the vision grows and communicate his or her passion about the vision’s importance to others. The leader must pursue the vision wholeheartedly and inspire others to join the journey.

How do you develop or find a vision suitable for a visionary leader? That is the stuff of vision statements. Do not be confused between mission statements and vision statements, because these terms differ from each other. Although both refer generally to organizations, the terms can also be applied in an individual context as well. As defined by James Manktelow and the MindTools™ website, mission statements generally define a company’s purpose and primary objectives and are designed for an organization’s internal perspective and for measuring how the company will define its success.

A vision statement on the other hand looks externally. Like a mission statement, a vision statement also includes a purpose, but the statement focuses more on values and beliefs as the vision statement defines how things will be done. A mission statement will just sum up your SMART goal statements (for more about SMART goals, click here). A vision statement will sum up your beliefs and values about how you achieve your goals. A good leader will be remembered by the quality of his or her vision.

Here are three steps to build a vision statement:

  • Determine what your mission is and what value your mission has for others. This is the part where you incorporate your beliefs and values into a framework that will reveal your future as you dream it.
  • Determine what others will value most about how you accomplish your mission. What is the best that others will remember or appreciate when you accomplish your mission? Your mission may never end; the vision itself of what is possible may be something that generations to come will aspire to carry on.
  • Sum up the above items and write out your vision statement in words that will inspire, energize, and motivate others.
I have always thought that teaching and music were my spiritual gifts. I have spent my entire life working to develop the expertise and ability to do well in both areas. In the past decade, and more specifically in the last few years, I have given a great deal of consideration to my mission and my vision. Dr. Suzuki's vision was that every child can learn. I believe that statement. I truly do.

What I also truly believe is that we teachers (and that includes parents too) and how we teach children have an enormous impact on how easily and well a child will learn. We can be stumbling blocks, disinterested spectators, and tired babysitters instead of effective, inspiring, and nurturing teachers. I know this because I see it everywhere. I hear from teachers everywhere who desire to learn more about how to guide the teacher's studio parents more effectively. I talk with other teachers about problems that arise in the teaching process, and many of these problems have little if anything to do with how to play the musical instrument!

I see parents who are without effective parenting skills, and they are publicly scolding their children or goading the children into obeying or following senseless (from the child's perspective) commands. I see parents who appear to be indifferent to their children and how their children will grow up, because the parents are so busy away from the home that they seldom interact effectively with their children in the home.

Parenting may not be easy. Every family has its own challenges and "growth spurts." I understand how difficult it must be for parents everywhere to be effective parents and teachers to their children. As a teacher who interacts frequently and intimately with this parent-child learning process, I have many observations to offer, knowledge to suggest, and expertise to share. I want to create a better world in which children will thrive and in which parents will enjoy the learning process with their children as much as I do.

Dr. Suzuki had his vision that every child could learn, and his mission was to develop the whole child into a fine human being with a fine heart.

My vision is that every child can learn and that I can equip parents and teachers to make that learning road as smooth as it can be. My mission is to build the best possible connection between the parent and the child in the parent-child relationship and to inspire other teachers to do the same.

What is your vision?


  1. I enjoyed reading your post! You are right, every family is different with their own challenges and blessing. My daughter is learning piano through the Suzuki method. I've made some fun games, and posted them on my blog. I plan to post every Saturday. I would love to have you drop by and tell me what you think.

  2. It's a great blog! Lots of fun ideas and colorful things. Wish I were with you to get my hands smack dab in the middle of it all! I will visit often. Thank you for letting me know about your blog. I will list you as a resource.