Founder of Herman Miller office furniture Max De Pree once said, “Leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: ‘Who do we intend to be?’ Not ‘What are we going to do?’ but ‘Who do we intend to be?’” A vision statement answers this question by presenting an organization’s values, goals, and desires for the future.
A leader’s vision is the clear projection of how their business will positively impact its customers and the world around them. Without this foresight, the company’s mission becomes unclear because there is no visualized end goal to strategize purpose-driven initiatives around. A lack of vision results in lower employee engagement, “trial and error” business strategies, decreased customer loyalty, profit losses, and inefficient work efforts due to poor direction.
Find out more below about what a vision statement is, why having one is important, and how to cast a vision for your business. Additionally, read through the list of sample vision statements and get inspiration for writing your own.
What is a Vision Statement?
A vision statement is a leader’s concise description of what their company will look like in the future. It should be noted that a vision statement is different from a mission statement. A vision statement focuses on the direction a company plans to go. Mission statements, on the other hand, describe what a company is currently doing to achieve its purpose. While mission entails the “on the ground” plan for achieving goals, vision gives a bird’s eye view of the direction the troops are heading. Nevertheless, the two are similar in that they both serve as organizational roadmaps.
Additionally, a vision statement is a leadership tool designed to help executives with strategic planning. Using a leader’s vision can guide and determine goal-setting, decision-making, and establishing company initiatives. This helps the business achieve the overarching, large-scale goals that their teams will collectively accomplish together.
Why Do Leaders Need to Create a Vision Statement?
As presidential advisor David Gergen explains, “A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” A CEO or founder’s vision can inspire and motivate employees to emotionally invest in achieving a higher purpose. When people feel they play a part in making a difference in the lives of others, they’re more likely to remain engaged, committed, focused, and fulfilled when helping their company reach its top priorities. According to research conducted by LinkedIn, “74% of [LinkedIn’s] members place a high value on finding work that delivers on a sense of purpose.” It goes to show how important a guiding vision can be to team members.
Additionally, leaders who guide their teams with vision excel in business. The same report shows purpose-led businesses also experience more growth, a higher level of engaged employees, and better performance from team members. Overall, all of these factors elevate the organization’s profitability and positive impact.
Other great reasons for leading with vision:
- It provides the company with a clear sense of direction.
- Information the business should communicate through brand messaging is brought to light.
- Leaders can create sharper strategic initiatives that intentionally fulfill the business’s purpose.
- Executives’ increased focus leads to organizational excellence.
- Employees feel called to achieve a significant purpose that has far-reaching societal effects.
- Customers who believe in the brand’s purpose and values support the business and bring in new buyers.
How to Write a Vision Statement in 5 Steps
Now that it’s clear what a vision statement is and why having one is important, it’s time to start crafting your own. Using the five steps listed below, you can begin the process of developing one of your business’s most important guiding forces.
Step 1: Get Clear on the Company’s WHY
The first step in developing your leadership vision statement is getting clear on why a company exists. Overall, the answer to this will determine a leader’s visualization of the future they want their business to achieve. As leadership expert Simon Sinek writes in his best-seller, Start with Why, “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief . . . We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe, and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.” When WHY gets communicated, it attracts loyal followers who want to help make a leader’s vision for the future a reality.
Start the process of figuring out your WHY by:
- Thinking about why you started the business or signed on to become an executive.
- Considering what movement you’d like to create that progresses to a better future.
- Getting to the heart of why supporting your chosen cause or endeavor through your business should matter to the world.
- Contemplating how your business can create a sense of belonging and community.
- Ideating around how your company’s purpose intersects with your customers’ purpose.
To dive deeper into this process, check out this article: “Start with Why: A Powerful Way to Lead with Purpose.”
Step 2: Ideate on the Future
After getting clear on the company’s purpose, begin brainstorming the foundational components of your vision statement. To do this, get out a sheet of paper or head to a whiteboard and begin jotting down words that come to mind when you think of the company’s future. When brainstorming, don’t tailor your thoughts—Let ideas flow freely at this stage. Dare to dream about accomplishing challenging goals as the business grows. Also, hone in on thoughts that resonate with you and try to visualize the details. “The clearer you are when visualizing your dreams, the brighter the spotlight will be to lead you on the right path,” says entrepreneur Gail Lynne Goodwin.
To begin the visualization process, run through this list of questions:
- What will your company have accomplished in five years,10 years, 25 years, 50 years?
- What does each of these phases look like in detail?
- Where are there commonalities between the different stages of scaling?
- How did you get there?
- Which values did the team possess?
- Who helped you?
- How has this impacted the world?
- Why do customers resonate with what you offer?
- What is it about your brand that is uniquely valuable to buyers?
- How has the business gained continued support?
Discover more about this technique with: “Visualization: How to Harness the Mind’s Power.“
Step 3: Start Drafting a Vision Statement
Once you complete the ideation phase, it’s time to start writing your vision statement as clear and concisely as possible. To do this, shorthand two or three “big ideas” you want those encountering the vision statement to take away from it. Begin by determining what absolutely must be said. This helps eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. It also provides a guide before you begin drafting a sentence. For example, NIKE’s vision statement is: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete).”
This vision statement example can be outlined to read:
- “Inspire people to be healthy.”
- “Innovate the industry.”
- “Encourage inclusivity.”
Once your top ideas are in place, turn them into a sentence that cohesively weaves together each point. Make sure to write the leadership vision statement in the present tense. Additionally, avoid sharing details like metrics and overly specific goals. Remember, this is merely a glimpse into what the company plans to achieve in the future. For this reason, choose words that are motivational, inspirational, and convey your passion for fulfilling the company’s purpose.
Step 4: Revise for Further Clarity
The next step in crafting a vision statement is to further refine it for clarity. To do this, first, take a close look at the final product from your drafting phase. Eliminate unclear words that don’t get directly to the point of what you want to communicate. Take Amazon’s vision statement for example: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Further refinement could look like: “To offer the world’s best customer experience while helping people find and discover new products online.” The second statement takes out unnecessary language to make your leadership’s vision even clearer.
Other strategies for refining a vision statement include:
- Meeting with your leadership team for feedback or different perspectives on the vision before finalization.
- Having a mentor or trusted partner review what you’ve written.
- Workshopping it with a group of creatives who might find ways to dig into certain words and pull out an even more powerful message.
Step 5: Communicate and Implement the Vision
Once you’ve completed writing your statement, begin putting it into action. First, present it to your team. Articulate the vision then elaborate on the statement’s meaning and how it will impact company initiatives. Moving forward, keep reiterating the vision statement. Whether discussing company objectives, delegating work, or reviewing metrics and KPIs, regularly tie current work back to the business’s vision for the future.
Inspiring Vision Statement Examples
Another helpful way to develop a great vision statement is to read those of successful businesses. Check out this list of top 20 vision statements and get inspiration for crafting your own.
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
“To provide the best customer service possible. Deliver ‘WOW’ through service.”
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
“That the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.”
5. Warby Parker
“We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has the right to see.”
“To make people happy.”
“Reddit is the world’s largest & best platform for online communities to share & connect.”
“That people everywhere will share the power of a wish.”
“To attract and attain customers with high-valued products and services and the most satisfying ownership experience in America.”
10. charity: water
“That we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need—clean drinking water.”
“Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”
“To make commerce better for everyone.”
“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”
“Becoming the best global entertainment distribution service.”
“To make the best products on earth, and to leave the world better than we found it.”
18. Home Depot
“To create a company that would keep alive the values that were important to us. Values like respect among all people, excellent customer service and giving back to communities and society.”
19. Habitat for Humanity
“A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better-shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities, and our planet.”
Complement Your Vision with a Mission
A great vision statement is most effective when it’s partnered with a mission statement. As mentioned above, vision and mission are not the same. While a vision statement communicates where a business wants to go, a mission statement determines what it is doing to get there. As the best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey says, “A mission statement is not something you write overnight, but fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your leadership and vision. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.” Articulating a company’s mission by developing a mission statement will prove to be instrumental in guiding leaders to grow successful businesses.
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