It is easy--and dangerous to confuse a goal with reality and to so fully embrace a vision that you lose touch with what you see every day. Vision is an essential part of leadership. But visionaries and those that follow them wander into dangerous territory when they begin to believe one or more of these vision-clouding myths.
Mission statements define culture. While they are an important component of leading a team of people, mission statements do not define a company's culture. The way people behave every day is what defines a company and those behaviors can easily become widely separated from the idealistic and well-intentioned statements that hang on the walls of a human resources department, in a corporate lobby, or even in a well-appointed board room. The dream of what a company can and should be is important. Authentically admitting what a company is today is critical for lasting growth and health. Leaders lose credibility when their messages about a company only vaguely compare to the environment people work in each day.
Strategies determine priorities. Annual, corporate, or monthly strategy sessions do not define the priorities and direction of an organization. Direction is determined and set dozens of times each day as leaders and managers make decisions about how they will allocate the resources of a company. Strategy may clarify the intended direction of an organization, but what decision-makers choose to do with money, people, time, and materials ultimately and literally define the priorities of an organization. And when people fail to see the organization as an entire system, those decisions will often be directly opposed to the stated vision.
Purpose overcomes problems. The problem you ignore today often becomes the disaster you'll dread tomorrow. Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said, "The things you refuse to meet today always come back at you later on, usually under circumstances which make the decision twice as difficult as it originally was." Motivational quotes, promises that things will get better, and a vision that motivates people to invest more and more are not enough to overcome systemic problems that are allowed to remain ignored and unresolved.
Healthy vision draws us toward the future while allowing us a clear view of current realities.