Bennis and Nanus (1986, p. 89), two of the classic writers on leadership, describe how vision functions:
"To choose a direction, a leader must first have developed a mental image of a possible and desirable future state of the organization. This image, which we call a vision, may be as vague as a dream or as precise as a goal or mission statement. The critical point is that a vision articulates a view of a realistic, credible, attractive future for the organization, a condition that is better in some important ways than what now exists."
Research and practice have demonstrated the important role that vision and mission play in organizations - especially schools. Equally important is the role of the leader in developing a vision for the school, which has been described in research on effective schools, studies of restructuring, and broad studies of leadership. Principals, along with teachers and parents, should develop a clear vision and a specific mission statement. School leaders often develop a vision of the school by collaborating with all of the major stakeholders in the school community, whose hopes, dreams, expectations, and values contribute to the school's goals and aspirations.
As Bennis and Nanus (1986) and Deal and Peterson (1994) point out, the vision and mission of the school must be clear, engaging, and attainable. To be motivating, it must touch deeper values and hopes.
The school vision can easily stagnate. Therefore, it must be regularly expressed, proclaimed in word and deed, and communicated through mission statements, mottos, logos, and the behavior of formal and informal leaders. The mission should be reconsidered on a regular basis, incorporating changes and additions to reflect new circumstances, new opportunities, or new goals (Bennis & Nanus, 1986).
Both formal and informal leaders communicate their vision by how they spend their time, what they talk about, what problems they solve first, and what they get excited about. In every act, leaders reinforce the values they hold and the vision they hope to achieve.
It is important to develop the vision and mission of the school collaboratively, as Tom Sergiovanni (1987) notes:
"One theme emerges from this discussion of the process of change. Though principals are important and their visions key in focusing attention on change and in successfully implementing the process of change, what counts in the end is bringing together the ideas and commitments of a variety of people who have a stake in the success of the school. As this process unfolds, principals can often find themselves on thin ice. They need to be clear about what it is that they want, but cannot be so clear that they are providing people with road maps. They need to allow people to have an important say in shaping the direction of the school and deciding on the changes needed to get there, but they cannot be so detached that these individual aspirations remain more rhetorical than real."