Visionary Leadership

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If people can’t see what God is doing,
they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
they are most blessed.
Proverbs 29:18 (The Message)

Vision is the bridge between the present and the future; it captures the imagination by painting a compelling picture of a desired reality which does not yet exist. Vision gives meaning to our goals, plans and efforts. Vision is the motivator that keeps us going when the going gets tough; it compels us to dare greatly and it is the fuel for the energy and optimism needed to succeed. People with a compelling vision will choose to continually move forward even in the face of overwhelming odds; without it most people will simply choose the path of least resistance rather than endure hardship and pain. A compelling vision creates and fosters a culture which will coalesce around that vision and provide the resources and means to achieve the vision.

Moses was a man of vision. One of my favorite Bible passages is Hebrews 11:24-27: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” (NASB)

Moses had a clear vision for the future, “for he was looking to the reward…he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” As a result of his compelling vision, Moses was able to forego the pleasures of the household of Pharaoh and endure hardship and lack instead. His vision compelled him to make choices which were costly but moved him toward his vision.

Visionary leadership empowers people to collectively pursue the vision by fostering:

  • Commitment to core values
    Visionary leaders encourage creativity and innovation but never bounce from one idea to another. They focus on core values as their guiding ideals.
  • Uncompromising desire to make the vision reality
    Visionary leaders never lose sight of the desired condition or the vision. Regardless of whatever may come along, they are unrelenting in pursuit of the vision.
  • Healthy relationships grounded in honesty and transparency
    Visionary leaders understand the value of community and healthy relationships. They foster community by investing in healthy relationships based on mutual trust.
  • Clear and consistent communication
    Visionary leaders clearly and regularly communicate the vision and the shared core values upon which the vision is based. They foster trust through consistent and clear communication.
  • Willingness to take bold actions
    Visionaries often think “outside the box” of conventional approaches and move toward long-term change and innovation. They are proactive and anticipate change, rather than react to situations.

Fresno Pacific University was founded by a handful of men with a shared vision about the need for Christian higher education in the Central Valley. They faced innumerable obstacles as they founded Pacific Bible Institute in downtown Fresno. Initially PBI was not accredited, so those leaders collaborated on how to achieve accreditation so the credits from PBI were transferrable to other universities. They purchased land and established the seminary which remains at that original location today. They continued purchasing the cotton fields around the seminary with a vision of moving PBI from downtown Fresno. Eventually PBI moved from downtown to the present main FPU campus with new facilities and “sidewalks to nowhere” in anticipation they would someday lead to buildings that didn’t exist yet. They had a compelling vision!

This past weekend the FPU Board of Trustees spent time at a retreat on the Bakersfield campus, building the foundation for a process of envisioning the future in our June meeting. We heard from Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges & Universities, and Shapri LoMaglio, vice president for government and external relations for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Both shared with us extensively about external influences which are shaping the future for Christian higher education such as culture, the church, politics, government and regulators. The board heard from a number of FPU leaders, including students from the Bakersfield campus, the Center for Community Transformation, the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies and athletics.

Looking forward to the June board meeting and our visioning process, a few things were apparent to me in our meetings this past weekend. The board is committed to creating a vision that will position the university to thrive in the midst of a rapidly changing landscape within Christian higher education. The board is interested in entertaining all perspectives and ideas which may inform our renewed vision for the future of FPU. To effectively pursue the vision, the board is committed to a culture of excellence, accountability and ongoing assessment for the entire FPU community. Finally, the board is committed to a future for FPU in which we boldly pursue what God has called us to do as we engage the cultures and serve the cities. I believe God is about to do a new and wonderful thing here at FPU and I look forward to being part of that process!