By Will Mancini
Every leader desires to see vision become reality, but the real challenge of translating vision to reality is clarity. It is both more fundamental and logically prior to other discussions. When building a house, you don’t run out and buy two-by-fours before you draw a blueprint.
What is clarity really about? It means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes or darkens. Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable and exact. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: what the current reality and future possibilities are, what God says about them and what we need to do about them.
We might say clarity is the fuel that runs the twin engines of vision and action. Think about it for a minute. Aren’t communicating vision and taking action only as good as they are first, clear? Clarity is the golden thread that links the two.
Let’s consider further the benefits of clarity.
Clarity makes direction unquestionable.
Followers cannot travel an unmarked path. Does your church have many missions or just one? Does your ministry team exist for a purpose or not? If you can state it, don’t just tell me what it is: be so clear about it that the very articulation will generate a gravitational pull. You must have clarity if you want to make the way deﬁnable and obvious.
Clarity makes enthusiasm transferable.
When a leader leads, there is always an exchange of enthusiasm. Clarity is the moment when a follower gets it. The very experience of capturing a clear idea or mission makes people want to share it. When passion and a clear idea are wed, the passion can more easily spread. Cascading contagion requires clarity.
Clarity makes work meaningful.
Tasks easily become routine—dull, hollow and void of signiﬁcance. Clarity can lift the mind’s eye to a greater reality. There can be no cultivation of meaning without clarity.
Clarity makes synergy possible.
Collaboration is lost to sideways energy every day in the local church. Why? The three reasons I see most are mistrust, personal ego and lack of strategic clarity. Leaders rarely clarify what working together really looks like. Breaking ministry silos requires clarity.
Clarity makes success deﬁnable.
Everyone wants to be a winner. But in too many churches, people don’t know how to win. Where is a scorecard I can carry that lets me know if I am making a difference? Painting the picture of victory and unleashing people’s drive for achievement requires clarity.
Clarity makes focus sustainable.
Henry Ford said the great weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once. How does a leader or organization learn to say no to the good things that are the enemy to the best? If the secret to concentration is elimination, you can’t do it without clarity.
Clarity makes leadership credible.
The silver bullet syndrome has left many leaders impotent. Firing one disconnected idea after the next, year after year, leaves church members cautious at best and disillusioned at worst. Real visionary leadership is not about having a bunch of creative ideas; it is about having creativity that builds momentum over time. Leaders earn more confidence with clarity.
Clarity makes uniqueness undeniable.
Many church leaders get stuck photocopying vision from other churches. But the leader’s role requires stewarding what God has uniquely given and being in tune with what God is uniquely doing. The first step for a leader is to draw attention to this uniqueness, make it obvious, make it attractive and show how remarkable it is. There is no appreciation of uniqueness without clarity.
Clarity makes uncertainty approachable.
To fear the future is to be human. It can paralyze people and deter them from living with courage and investing into kingdom initiatives. Questions such as “What will happen to my children?” or “How many people will the church plant reach next year?” retain uncertainties. The leader can combat uncertainty with clarity that inspires hope and expectation. Leading people to rally around a better future, albeit unknown, requires clarity.
Clarity—The real challenge
I’ve found that much of what happens in the name of vision and planning does not necessarily bring clarity. I grieve when I watch teams try to find solutions to their challenges—whether it is hiring the next staff, launching a new service time or multi-site or turning around a situation in decline—without first finding clarity.
If clarity is so crucial, how can you know when you have it? I would suggest a simple five-point test. Leading with clarity is evidenced when people can enthusiastically answer five irreducible questions:
- What are we doing?
- Why are we doing it?
- How are we doing it?
- When are we successful?
- Where is God taking us?
The answer then is not a new tool, but a new toolbox. The keys to open it are found in clarity. With a commitment to clarity first, any leader can maximize the twin-engines of vision and action. Only then, will he or she walk out of daydreams and nightmares with a vibrant vision that creates a better future.