Being A Visionary Leader

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Being A Visionary Leader
In my opinion, perhaps the biggest role you have as a leader is that of “visionary”. So, two of the most impactful things you can do as a leader are (1) having a clear, compelling vision and (2) sharing it. Do those two things right and you will go a long way toward success.

As I’ve written here many times before, the idea of creating and staying focused on a vision for your organization is one of the primary places that otherwise good leaders fall down. When I’ve asked them, leaders have told me they often shy away from developing a vision outline and statement for a few reasons:

  • The world is fast-moving, ever-changing, and complex. So they question the value of developing a vision that could be changed as the landscape changes.
  • They don’t see themselves as “visionary” – and therefore aren’t comfortable creating one or leading the effort with their team to create one.
  • It’s one of those “Consulting BS” things that will just get put on a shelf and never looked at again. It really won’t make any difference.
  • Things are crazy busy. No one has the time to break away to dedicate to some longer-term esoteric idea about something that could happen way out in the future. There are too many things to get done today.

Believe me. I get it. I’ve been in business a looooong time. And I’ve seen every one of these situations. And I have to say, even with these challenges hanging around, I believe that EVERY organization can benefit greatly by investing the time and resources to developing AND USING a vision and strategic plan. Doing it right will pay off.

Let’s tackle a few of these big objections. These three principles need to be part of your leadership process….

1. Consider It Fundamental

A vision CANNOT be a one-time, shove-it-on-the-shelf, happy-it’s-finished, glad-we-have-this-nice-document kind of thing. Instead, you need to put on a different mindset. When done properly, it becomes one of the guiding principles of your organization. It’s a foundational piece of your organization. It factors into your culture and every decision your organization makes.

It should:

  • Be shared with interviewees and new-hires – they need to understand and ingest where your organization is headed – and commit to playing a role in making it happen
  • Weave into employee review and reward decisions. What extent does each employee help move the organization toward it’s vision. (And performance review time is a great time to re-share the vision and allow employees to ask questions about it.)
  • Be shared at each team get-together. Everyone should be constantly reminded of where the organization is heading – and why.
  • Allow anyone to speak up when they feel the organization is going off-course. Scratch that. Make it an EXPECTATION that anyone who has a concern speaks up. Much as a line-operator in a manufacturing facility can have the power to stop the line when they feel a safety issue has arisen, employees need to be empowered to speak up and “stop the line” when your organization veers off-course. Make sure everyone knows that they have this power – and put a process in place that allows them to exercise it.
  • Make employees feel that they are part of a mission, something with a direction. In my experience, it’s the rare person who doesn’t want their work to be meaningful and fulfilling. (Yes, it does happen.) Bringing them into the process and building it into the organization’s culture, helps employees understand the organization’s direction and ensure that they know they are a part of making it happen. What they do does matter.
  • Guide decision-making. Whenever a big decision is being considered the vision should be held up and looked at. Decision-makers should ask themselves if the decision they are about to make is aligned with the organization’s vision. If not, it probably shouldn’t be done.

2. Recognize It IS An Investment

There’s no way around it. Developing and implementing a vision takes dedication. It requires a decent investment of blocks of time, attention, and thought. It demands research to see how it might need to be modified as the business environment changes.

Just know that when done right (especially the inaugural one) it will take a true commitment from the organization. But the pay-off will be great.

3. Everyone Can Be “Visionary”

I have heard this from leaders numerous times. And then when prompted the right way, I’ve seen them spew out a clear, coherent vision. Most leaders have formed opinions about where the organization can go and what it can achieve.

Expand your world. Make sure you are interacting with different types of people in different types of positions in different industries. And don’t be afraid to ask them their thoughts about your organization’s direction or about a strategic decision with which you are struggling. They can bring a new, fresh perspective to a challenge you might be battling or direction you are considering. And that may just make all the difference.

The key is confidence. A leader must develop the confidence to put their vision out there for all to see. And they need to be humble enough to appreciate the insights of others and be open to the idea that their vision won’t be the final vision. The best visions are developed in an open, collaborative environment. Don’t be afraid to share your vision and then incorporate the ideas of others. Yours is the first shot, but not necessarily the final one. Let others in. They will truly appreciate being a part of the process.

And last but not least, please please please don’t forget to share that vision! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen organizations that are not aggressive enough in sharing their strategic direction. Let your staff in on the secret. You want them to help make it a reality, so make sure they understand what your organization is trying to achieve. Let them know what that destination looks like. Help them understand the role they play. Make a big splash as you roll out this vision. Tell everyone how it will become part of the day-to-day activity within the organization. Make sure they know that you and your leadership team stand behind and support it – and will do everything in your power to work side-by-side with them to make it happen. Excite the troops!

Vision is a critical part of the leader’s job. And, yes, you can do it. Recognize it’s importance. Train yourself to be more visionary. Learn how to step back and consider other perspectives and other organizations. Learn from them.

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