What Do You See?

image credit: Tom Cooke via Flickr

image credit: Tom Cooke via Flickr

There’s lots of talk about “visionary leadership” – especially these days where leaders are expected to be able to see clearly in order to guide their organizations to greatness. The following is an excerpt from my book “The 9 Signs of Effective Leadership”:

I fervently believe that to be an effective leader, you must lead with a vision of the future – your desired state – and not be encumbered or deterred by the circumstances you find in your current state. Think of the leaders you have met in your life who couldn’t think or see beyond their current state. They were trapped in the systematic way of doing things because they couldn’t see the bigger picture. I contend that many ineffective leaders find themselves consumed with the challenges that they see every day instead of focusing on the opportunities that lie beyond those challenges.

In their book Virtuoso Teams: Lessons From Teams That Changed Their Worlds, Andy Boynton and Bill Fisher wrote that strong leaders “…powerfully drive the team, its vision, culture, and the results”, further noting that these leaders “…drive a powerful, very ambitious vision into the fabric of their team.” Dr. Sooksan Kantabutra (international leadership researcher and lecturer) noted that vision is an important element in successful sustainability strategies and organizational performance. Specifically, Dr. Kantabutra asserted that vision (and by extension, corporate vision as cast by an effective leader) should be simple with broad meaning so that stakeholders (internal and external) can be inspired and challenged to contribute.

Some leaders believe that having a vision qualifies them for sainthood, and their vision immediately propels them into the stratosphere of success. Truth be told, vision is simply the identification, understanding, and declaration of a desired future state. For example, I have a vision of living a completely healthy life, so accordingly my vision statement may read: “My vision is to be happy and in good health.” That declaration alone doesn’t create the inertia necessary to ensure my success. Noted business paradigm consultant Joel Barker once said “vision without action is merely a dream; action without vision just passes the time: vision with action can change the world.”

Vision without execution is a dream, so effective leaders must cast their vision while simultaneously portraying the practicality (and achievability) of their goals to their followers. Visionary leaders look out across their horizons and see the direction they want to move toward, the challenges and opportunities for advancement that lie ahead, and a representation of what they hope to achieve. These same leaders don’t look ahead without taking stock in their current circumstances. Rather, these leaders are able to navigate through and beyond the present because they’ve seen a glimpse of what lies ahead…and that motivates and propels them forward.


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