Vision is our view of the future. Vision is the portrait of our hopes and dreams. It is our mental picture of what might be, but is not yet.
Vision gives us a sense of purpose and guides us as we work in the present. In organizations, a vision statement articulates what the organization aspires to accomplish.
Visionary leaders energize and inspire people to work toward this future goal. They are able to clearly and vividly communicate what the future holds. Visionary leaders anticipate what’s coming, both opportunities and obstacles. They are able to connect the dots between various trends and events and interpret how what is happening today might impact the future.
Visionary leaders work with the end in mind. They know where they are headed and why they are going there. They are able to work in the present moment while also looking forward to where the organization is heading. They provide strong direction for the path ahead and give well-defined rationale for how the decisions of the present relate to the vision of the future.
Seeing Things Early
Visionary leaders see things and make sense of them before most others are able to. We do not merely see the obvious opportunities, obstacles, or indicators of change, we also see the subtle trends and discrete events that only a watchful eye can locate – things that appear disconnected and are often found on the periphery of our normal focus.
Not only are visionary leaders able to see things early, we are also able to put various pieces of information together in a manner that is coherent and makes sense. Despite being bombarded with information from multiple sources, we are able to filter through what is important and what is not. We are able to put seemingly random pieces of information together and draw logical and meaningful conclusions from them.
Visionary Leaders Take Risks
Visionary leaders use the information we gather to take calculated risks. The information we glean provides insights about the future that others often miss, and this information usually requires us to act quickly in order to benefit from it. Once relevant information is known, doing nothing is rarely an option for visionary leaders.
The degree of risk we face varies from decision to decision. Some risks are potentially costlier, and some risks are more difficult to manage. Yet risk is a part of our lives, and while we can work to mitigate risks, they are still a reality. Even doing nothing is a risk. In fact, the risk of doing nothing may eventually be greater than the risk of taking action. I have always believed that if we are complacent as an organization, we are at a greater risk of becoming irrelevant. This fear causes me to continually question the way things are and to push our organization to explore new opportunities.
Communicate Your Vision
Organizations need a vision, but they also need leaders who communicate that vision. Employees look to their leaders to provide an image of the future. Leaders who can clearly articulate their vision inspire others to join them on the journey. The more excited you are about where you’re going, the more likely others are to join you.
Sharing your vision, and being receptive to other people’s suggestions for that vision, builds a common purpose. It helps people see the bigger picture of why they are working – it motivates them. Leaders who can articulate a compelling vision for the future that connects with people will inspire them to join in working toward that vision.
Very few large-scale visions have ever been achieved without the help of others. As a result of this realization, I have learned that it is important to ask employees to share their thoughts and offer suggestions for the vision of the organization. The insights they have offered have altered our organization’s vision in many positive ways.
By including others in our thinking and planning for the future, we have created a shared and inclusive future – one that everyone in our organization can feel proud of.
This blog post is an excerpt from my book The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization. Available on Amazon.