Vision: First Step in Leadership

In my experience as a building principal and district leader, I believe one must start with a clear vision and sense of purpose as he develops a collaborative community. Effective leaders can vividly describe their vision of the future and can paint a clear picture of that destination to others. They build teams and define the steps to get there. An educator can see units roll out and growth in learning over time.  I feel it is critical to know where you are going before you take that first step.

Vision is a mental picture of the future that guides us, provides motivation to grow and improve, and gives us a sense of purpose. In education, vision helps us focus on the unchanging goal in the ever-changing K–12 environment. Leaders prepare for the future of instruction by looking forward to see how students will best learn and retain information. Educators have a vision to plan lessons, create a classroom environment conducive to learning, and ensure students have a safe learning environment.

In my experience, vision has a variety of definitions, all of which include a mental image or picture, a future orientation, and aspects of direction or goal. Too often, vision is used as a buzzword and not something an educator believes in. True vision provides a roadmap for the school and its stakeholders by providing a picture of success. Educators can clearly communicate this vision for the school to inspire, motivate, and engage people.

Think about a cruise ship—one of those big Royal Caribbean boats. What is the first step when some CEO says, “I want to invest in starting a cruise line?”  The first step better be bringing in someone to design the boat before the first part is ordered. Stephen R. Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind” and I fully agree. Without knowing your goal, purpose, and direction, how do you think you are going to get there? Having vision will provide, inspire, motivate, and engage people as you begin developing a collaborative community.

In July of 2013, I walked into the Boston College campus to start my doctoral program…..and yes, I knew only  one person and was nervous. I sat and looked around, thinking “What did I get myself into?” and “Can I do this?” On the first day we were given the below card so that we could stay focused on our goal. I kept it in on my car’s dashboard to remind me every day the journey and the goal.


Vision provides a picture of the future. More important, it inspires people to work to make it come true and to the initiative because of your clear direction. A clear vision assists if along the way you go astray on your action steps or attitude.

When a school leader, classroom teacher, or district administrator believes in a vision, others will see those characteristics in their actions, mannerisms, motivation, and passion. You hear a lot of people say: “I will believe it when I see it.” Think of vision as the reverse of that statement as a leader. If you believe in your vision and model it every day, others will “See it”. They will see the vision and be clear on the direction.

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