Becoming A Visionary Leader Is More Than You Think

This is the 8th of 12 articles on leadership issues and the characteristics of successful leaders. Join us on a journey to become a more fearless leader. (To start at the beginning of the series, click here).

WE humans envision the future and form a vision by using our imaginations to create purposeful and exciting possibilities. Vision has many names: purpose, mission, dream, aspiration, calling. Vision is creating something from an idea, literally “dreaming it up.”

Our World Needs Vision.

We are currently facing uncertainty, fear, hopelessness, insecurity, social trauma, depression, disillusionment, and discouragement as human beings. We also confront religious conflict, political instability, and a global health epidemic. We may feel overcome by circumstances beyond our control. I’m not saying that strong leadership can cure these ills, but if people with strength, courage and wisdom step up, we can avoid or mitigate some of the overwhelming aspects that lead to negativism and defeat.

Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world. –Nelson Mandela

Great leaders are forward thinkers. The obvious come to mind: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, Elon Musk. They have extraordinary vision and are able to enroll thousands of people to bring that vision into reality.

A Vision Provides Direction and a Sense of Purpose. 

However, a vision has no purpose if it is not shared or is poorly articulated. Men and women who lead with the courage of their convictions can successfully communicate their vision and purpose to ignite a spark in others. They are able to activate their teams to unite in service of a common vision.

Conveying your firm grasp of your organization’s vision gives your team the opportunity to align and achieve as a group. When you share the vision for the organization, team, or project with others, they know they can rely on you to guide them.

Vision and purpose are generated by values. Article 7 made the point that clear personal and organizational values provide your team with information and the critical behaviors for accomplishing the vision.

A shared vision is not an idea…it is rather, a force in people’s hearts…at its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question, “What do we want to create?” –Peter Senge, author, systems scientist

A VITAL Vision for the Future—and Your Intuition

Vision is the first step of the VITAL acronym I use for the Fearless Change program: Vision, Insights, Trust, Appreciation and Legacy. Cultivating each of these elements creates strong leaders who can make a positive difference in organizations.

Your Vision paves the way to your success, a vision of where you’re going and what you want, the imaginary end-state picture of your future.

Insights offer a path to clarify your strengths and weaknesses, the understanding you need to achieve your vision. Over time, your vision and insights provide greater knowledge of who you are, what is possible, and how you can achieve it.

In gaining this awareness, you learn to Trust yourself, to move beyond any fears that get in the way of your success. Your clarity builds trust with others.

You discover ways to Appreciate and value others’ contributions and to show that you care. Putting these VITAL elements together, you influence people positively and leave a lasting impression that becomes your Legacy.

How to find your leadership vision? When you ask successful people where their vision came from, they frequently point to a dream. They may have trouble articulating where the dream came from, they just knew it was important. Vision and intuition are not logical; their origins may be difficult to explain or quantify. The future is amorphous by virtue of the fact that it is not tangible in the present moment. “I have a feeling that…,” frequently precedes explaining a vision.

A vision of the future is much like a literary or musical theme. It’s the paramount, persistent, and pervasive message that you want to convey, the frequently recurring melody that you want people to remember, and whenever repeated, it reminds the audience of the entire work. –Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

How Do You Create Your Life Vision?

In working with your VITAL leadership, ask yourself: What is my dream for my life? Dreams are essential to your vision. Your vision is generated by your hopes for improving your work and your life. Hope is not just a place in Arkansas, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, but a key element in generating your vision.

Starter vision questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my life working the way I want it to?
  • Do I have a clear vision of who I want to be for my family?
  • How do I see myself in 10 to 15 years?

Thinking about your vision can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience. We are not used to giving much thought to how our lives will look, far in advance. We are busy getting through the day and maintaining a roof over our heads, food on the table and gas in the car. Self-reflection can feel like an indulgence, but this is far from the truth.

If you don’t have a vision of your hopes and dreams, you miss opportunities in front of you and your chance to make a lasting impact. In order to make any change, you must believe there is something better. You need a vision of where you want to go.

When you choose to live the life you want and communicate your intentions and vision clearly, you are the active author of your life, [callout] rather than living in someone else’s epic novel. When you envision the future you want for yourself and pursue it with passion and determination, amazing things can happen.

A powerful vision unleashes emotions that give you the capacity to think more openly and deeply about what truly matters. A vision enables you to connect with who you are at your core. It accelerates learning as it drives lasting change.

Try these questions to kickstart your vision statement:

  1. What is my vision for my career?
  2. How does this vision fit with other aspects of my life? What would success mean for me and for my career?
  3. Looking back at the end of my career, what would be my most memorable achievements?

Shared vision connects us with people with powerful motivation, people who can withstand the inevitable challenges and setbacks. There are countless examples of ordinary citizens who have a bold vision and create extraordinary results, inspiring and motivating people in their communities to make changes that positively impact those around them.

Visionaries Inspire Greatness

Greta Thunberg, a seventeen-year-old from Sweden, challenged the global community to think harder about climate change and inspired thousands with her passion and resilience at the UN Climate Change Conference, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a think tank of world leaders and powerful industrialists. She withstood criticism from the very people she holds responsible for the urgent situation we currently face, people who dismissed her vision for change as irrelevant to their concerns.

We are all capable of producing great light in the world with a strong vision.

A vision of the future necessitates having goals, but vision is not a goal or a strategy. Setting a vision for your future is about aligning your values and purpose and creating a strong picture of success. None of this works if you lack trust in yourself.

To become a confident and fearless person, integrate all parts of yourself. When you no longer feel divided, uncertain or insecure, when you no longer doubt who you are and what you can do, you will trust yourself to do the right thing. Self-trust, vision and motivation are defining qualities of successful individuals. [callout]

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

As a young child, you were probably asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You likely wanted to emulate the people in your life: teachers, doctors, nurses, police or first responders. As your view of the world expanded, you may have wanted to be a sport or movie star, entrepreneur, or an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

In college, you thought about what you would do next, looking for a career that would provide a good salary and promotions. You may have struggled to find a fit for your personality, or a vision for the success you wanted. Developing your vision is not something you are taught in school.

As an individual, your vision for the future is critical to the overall success of your aspirations. [callout] Frequently, we don’t think big enough. We remain locked into what is realistic and play small.

Setting a vision driven by purpose and a sense of who we want to be in the world means taking risks, being bold, and courageously taking actions that inspire and motivate you and others to follow your lead.

I didn’t grow up wanting to be an author, coach, and motivational speaker. Each time I write a new book, it’s a fearless act. I have no idea if the finished product will have an impact. I’m driven to do this because my vision is to help people be better versions of themselves.

I believe that great opportunities come when you push yourself beyond your comfort level. You may not know where your ideas will take you, but that’s part of the adventure. When you have a clear vision, a strong sense of values and purpose, and take consistent action, the results will surprise you. [callout] These are your opportunities for accelerating leadership success.

Next Up in Your Leadership Journey: Appreciation  

Previous articles have discussed asking open-ended questions to learn, aligning your values and the company values, drafting a purpose statement, and creating your vision for your life

Jacqueline Wales is a motivational speaker, coach, and the author of The Fearless Factor @ Work, The Fearless Factor and other books. She believes in the power of fearlessness for creating the career and life you want.

I’d love to hear your comments and am happy to answer your questions!

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