Why Are Shared Visions So Important?

Surround Yourself

A shared vision changes people’s relationships with the organization. It is no longer us versus them, upstairs versus downstairs, admin versus frontline or some other moniker that sows discord and division; instead it becomes our organization, our department. A shared vision is the necessary step to developing mutual trust and harmony throughout organizations. It is a necessary component to creating and nurturing cohesion and unity to deal with the types of problems (crisis and conflict) police face daily. The shared sense of purpose, vision and, core values reshape an organizations culture. “Culture is a longer lasting, more complex set of shared expectations than climate. While climate is how people feel about their organization right now, culture consists of the shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize the larger institution. It’s deeply rooted in long-held beliefs, customs, and practices.” (FM 22-100 Leadership. 1999) A organizational culture with a shared vision establishes our ability to work together, more effectively beyond authority. It allows those highly trained and prepared who know the mission and intent to flourish while making sound decisions while dealing with adaptive challenges.

In the after action review (white paper) of the Marathon Bombing Response described that the “bombings required leaders of many agencies, scattered over numerous jurisdictions and with authorities and priorities, to rapidly respond together to an unknown and complex set of risks, decisions and actions.” The report analyzes their leadership through the event and seeks to understand how they were able to effectively lead an operation with remarkable outcomes. “These outcomes are measured in lives saved, suspects quickly captured, public confidence maintained, and population resilience fostered. These leaders were observed to exhibit ‘Swarm Intelligence’ a phenomenon in which no one is in charge and yet with all following the same principles and rules, leaders were able to accomplish more together than any one leader could have achieved separately. These rules include: 1) unity of mission that coalesces all stakeholders; 2) generosity of spirit; 3) deference for the responsibility and authority of others; 4) refraining from grabbing credit or hurling blame; 5) a foundation of respectful and experienced relationships that garner mutual trust and confidence. That confidence, both personal and systemic, bolstered these leaders individually and as a coordinated force over the 102 hours between the attacks and the conclusion of the incident. (Crisis META-Leadership Lessons From The Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence, 2014)

The report and the credit of how this incident was handled are centered on adaptive leadership (What the report refers to as META Leadership). “META Leadership reframes the process and preparation of leaders. It has three functions; 1) A comprehensive organizing mission to understand and integrate the many facets of leadership; 2) A method to engage collaborative activity; 3) A cause and purpose to improve organizational functioning and resilience. Following are the dimensions to the learning and practice of meta-leadership.

The Person of The META-Leader: Emotional intelligence: self-awareness and self-regulation. The capacity to lead despite fright: fear takes you to your emotional basement. Meta-leaders lead themselves and others up and out of the basement to higher levels of thinking and functioning.

The Situation: With often incomplete information, the meta-leader creates a broad reach, used to determine what is happening, the presenting choice points, and then to chart and meta-lead a course of action, effectively recruiting wide engagement and support.

Connectivity: The definition of Meta-Leadership is “People Follow You.” In other words, ‘You’re It!’ The meta-leader engages the many involved stakeholders, often leveraging influence beyond authority. With a multi-directional view and understanding that any situation affects each stakeholder differently, the meta-leader is able to simultaneously:

Lead Down: The meta-leader models confidence, inspiring subordinates to follow and succeed, encouraging strong, effective followers who themselves further galvanize cross-silo connectivity.

Lead Up: Validating the power authority equation, the meta-leader effectively leads up to the boss. Truth to power, effective communication, and being a great subordinate are critical.

Lead Across: Meta-leaders strategically devise cross-silo linkages that leverage expertise, resources, and information across a wide spectrum of stakeholders, integrating capacity for problems solving. (Crisis META-Leadership Lessons From The Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence, 2014)

You cannot have an adaptable organization or response to a crisis without a shared vision. “Without a pull toward some goal which people truly want to achieve, the forces in support of the status quo can be overwhelming. Vision establishes an overarching goal.” (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of A Learning Organization, Senge, Peter 1990)

Police organizations are more than capable of developing this type of culture. We see the results in organizations that foster a shared vision, like in the Marathon Bombings. All it takes is a willingness to open our minds and continually learn. It’s long overdue that the groupthink and the fixed follower the follower mindsets transition to a mindset of growth and organizational wide commitment focused on a vision that betters how we police.

Stay Oriented!


Works Cited

Initiative, N. P. (2014, April). Swarm Intelligence and the Marathon Bombing Response. Retrieved April 2014, from Harvard Kennedy School: http://npli.sph.harvard.edu/swarm-intelligence-and-the-marathon-bombing-...

Senge, P. M. (2010). The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. Random House LLC.