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Building Foundations of Leadership

Originally published July 20, 2016

This is the first part of a multi-part Blog on Executive Leadership.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch, Business Executive

When people think of the concept of foundations, they typically envision concrete being poured to commence construction of a new building. While leadership activities also necessitate having a firm foundation upon which to build, forming this foundation happens from the top and then strengthens as it flows down. This leadership foundation has three primary components: mission & vision, goals, and objectives & tasks. These building blocks must be kept in alignment to optimize success as a leader—and as an organization. 

Mission & Vision

This is a merging of two complementary concepts. They are the first step in starting to develop how you will lead within your organization:

Mission. This is the present—what does the organization do now. What are the foci of the organization’s efforts? While anchored in the present, the organization’s mission statement must also leave an opening for growth as the company persists and prospers.

If already established, your organization likely has (i.e. should have) a mission statement and vision statement. You may have access to the strategic goals that support the organization’s vision. In this exercise, you will examine your organization’s mission and vision statements, and then derive strategic goals and short-term, supporting objectives. It should be concise and clear enough that every employee can understand and remember it.

Vision. This provides the focus for what lies ahead for the organization—what you are working toward achieving. It is the focal point which every other principle and process must use as a metric to ensure that processes remain within the scope of the organization’s mission and vision. Simply put, organizations flourish when they find out what they do well, what they can do better, what they can do more of…and then keep activities within the scope of those realities.

Vision is more complex than mission. It not only looks forward but should look forward in stages, taking the most appropriate long-term scope for the overall vision. As such, it may indicate components of planned progress as explanatory bullets under the vision statement.

Goals. To reach the ideals reflected in the organization’s vision, strategic level goals are needed to guide the major parts of the organization’s efforts. These goals are relatively broad and are not at the level where actual, measurable work packages and tasks can be measured. From these goals, however, short-term measurable objectives may be developed and, from those objectives, tasks and work packages against which resources may be allocated and progress may be measured.

What is most important in this step of the process is that each of your long-term goals must focus on your vision—if it does not support your vision, you should be giving careful consideration as to whether is warrants your time and resources.

Objectives. These are short-term, measurable targets for accomplishing work toward achieving defined goals. From objectives may be derived individual tasks or work packages that provide the fine granularity by which progress—and success or failure—may be assessed. There will be a single vision statement for the organization; there will be a relatively small number of strategic goals; there will be many short-term objectives and even more associated tasks or work packages.

Tasks. Along the way, you may need to adjust, add, or subtract tasks or work packages as the environment within which the organization operates shifts; this is normal. When a continued trend of change at this level occurs, it is time to reassess the applicability of tasks to objectives—or even whether the objective itself may need to be redefined.


Next week will be Part 2 in the series: Top Influential Conditions for Leaders




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