Leading Effectively: Shared Mission and Vision

“Naturally, integration means working together for the success of the enterprise so we all may share in the resulting rewards. But management’s implicit assumption is that working together means adjusting to the requirements of the organization as management perceives them. In terms of existing views, it seem inconceivable that individuals, seeking their own goals, would further the ends of the enterprise. On the contrary, this would lead to anarchy, chaos, irreconcilable conflicts of self-interest, lack of responsibility, inability to make decisions, and failure to carry out those that were made” (McGregor).

According to McGregor, “All these consequences, and other worse ones, would be inevitable unless conditions could be created such that the members of the organization perceived that they could achieve their own goals best by directing their efforts toward the success of the enterprise” (McGregor).

Shared Vision

A vision should be clear and sufficient to inspire employees to action. “To capture the hearts of our employees, it is essential that we tell them what we stand for and where we are going. Our vision must be compelling, understandable, and focused” . Dr. King did not say to a crowd of 500,000 civil rights marchers, “I have a strategic plan today.”.

When General Motors formed its Saturn Corporation, the key question was not what kind of car to make but rather “What kind of company do your want to work for?” This is a core question to consider when you want to capture the hearts of employees, and can easily serve as the basis for an employee meeting on creating a company vision.

Mutual Mission

For employees to work together towards a common goal, they need to share a mutual mission. This means that they have an understanding of the organization as a whole, how the parts fit together, and where they fit in the structure. We should open up communications and provide company-wide information on financial and other topics. Decisions should be made in the open, away from the secretive practices of the executive boardroom. This will help to establish a climate of trust and loyalty.

Training will probably be needed for an employee to acquire this organization-wide understanding. Armed with this perspective, the employee can proceed in joining his co-workers to identify problems and their solutions. “It means that he will continuously be encouraged to develop and utilize voluntarily his capacities, his knowledge, his skill, his ingenuity in ways which contribute to the success of the enterprise” (McGregor). Technical professionals, for example, are often motivated most effectively by the desire to see their work contribute to an excellent final product .


Once employees have a clear understanding of the organization and their role in it, they need to be empowered to act on this understanding. This means removing corporate hierarchies and top-down power structures. It is not sufficient to simply “delegate” or “push down” authority and responsibilities if the ultimate power is maintained at the top. It means rethinking the need for executive prerogatives and perks and addressing the issue of fairness of executive compensation. It means establishing a clear code of corporate ethics.

Best Practices

According to Harris in Getting Employees to Fall in Love With Your Company, Southwest Airlines, Springfield ReManufacutring, and The Home Depot generate phenomenal levels of employee commitment, productivity, and even love, based upon five key principles:

  • “Capture the hearts and minds of all your employees.
  • Open communication between all levels of your organization.
  • Create partnerships between all employees built upon trust, equality, and sharing.
  • Drive learning into every nook and cranny of your company.
  • Emancipate the action of every employee to increase service and profits” (Harris, p. 15).

Shared Ownership: “A Piece of the Action”

Partners are actively engaged in the business and have a direct stake in its success. Employees are simply hired for wages or salary. If given a choice between the two, which would rather be–a partner or an employee? Under which definition would you put forth your best efforts?” (Harris, p. 55).

Recent research shows that despite occasional “blips” or failures among employee-owned organizations, on the whole employee stock ownership plans really do have a positive impact on organization performance. In an article entitled “How Well is Employee Ownership Working?” Corey Rosen and Michael Quarrey share the results of their rigorous long-term study of forty-five companies before and after instituting ESOP plans:

“The results of this analysis proved striking. During the five years before instituting their Employee Self Ownership Plans(ESOP), the 45 companies had, on average, grown moderately faster than the 238 comparison companies: annual employment growth was 1.21% faster, and sales growth, 1.89% faster. During the five years after these companies instituted ESOPs, however, their annual employment growth outstripped that of the comparison companies by 5.05%, while sales growth was 5.4% faster. Moreover, 73% of the ESOP companies in our sample significantly improved their performance after they set up their plans”.

“Not only have workers gained financially, but we can prove that ESOP companies have grown much faster than they would have without their ownership plans. We have found, moreover, that ESOP companies grow fastest when ownership is combined with a program for worker participation. A synergy emerges between the two: ownership provides a strong incentive for employees to work productively, and opportunities for participation enhance productivity by providing channels for workers’ ideas and talents”.

there is also the empowering aspects of employee ownership. “Stock ownership also gives employees a stake in the company’s future. More companies are recognizing that creating a sense of ownership is a great way to empower and connect employees–to get individualists working together”.

Work Design: Autonomy, Agenda Control, Variety, & Flow

“The sooner we realize that the quality of the work experience can be transformed at will, the sooner we can improve this enormously important dimension of life.” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 154).

One intervention which can be utilized to make jobs more intrinsically motivating and attractive is job re-design, which involves examining each job’s structure for possible improvements which would make the job itself more rewarding. The rewarding components of a job’s structure include:

  • Skill variety
  • Task identity – visible outcome
  • Task significance – impact on others
  • Autonomy – freedom in determining schedule, procedures
  • Job feedback – results indicate how well done

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of the University of Chicago, describes a peak performance state of “flow” which occurs when one’s job challenges and one’s sense of autonomy on the job combine to create a perfect sense of balance and accomplishment:

challenge + sense of control = flow

“In theory, any job could be changed so as to make it more enjoyable by following the prescription of the flow model. At present, however, whether work is enjoyable or not ranks quite low among the concerns of those who have the power to influence the nature of a given job. Management has to care for productivity first and foremost, and union bosses have to keep safety, security, and compensations uppermost in their minds. In the short run these priorities might well conflict with flow-producing conditions. This is regrettable, because if workers really enjoyed their jobs they would not only benefit personally, but sooner or later they would almost certainly produce more efficiently and reach all the other goals that now take precedence” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 154).

“Although, as we have seen, people generally long to leave their places of work and get home, ready to put their hard-earned free time to good use, all too often they have no idea what to do there. Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 162).