The Advancing Leadership Blog

Visionary Leadership – What Does It Mean In 2015?

Catherine_cropIn my first post of 2015 I’d like to start the year with some big-picture ideas and words, like Change and Vision. Why change? Because change seems to be the only real constant in business today and this fact begs the question of what a visionary leader in a fast-paced, ever-evolving world should be. Why Vision? Because it remains one of those fuzzy words that many do not have a firm grasp on, even though it’s bandied around a lot. So let’s start with vision. Unlike a mission statement, which defines the business, its objectives and its approach to meeting them, a vision statement describes the desired future position of the company. It’s a set of ideas that provide a sense of aspiration for management and employees. It can inform direction and it should be audacious.

A vision doesn’t have to be carved in stone, it can change as new opportunities present themselves, as the business evolves and as the business environment and the world changes. The idea of corporate vision is itself evolving according to some, especially when it comes to value (another one of those big picture words.) More and more, it’s being suggested that a company’s value should no longer be tied up solely in what it delivers to shareholders, but in terms of its value to society. This is a question that is being asked more in leadership circles and it relates directly to the vision statement of the company. In other words, if your vision statement is “To be #1 in our industry” you may want to re-think it. An example of a vision statement that is big and audacious is that of Amazon which is “..to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, to build a place where people can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Notice there is no mention of books, even though this is their main business.

Let’s come back to change. Since change is in all of our futures, like it or not, the only question is: Are you driving change or is it driving you? Do you have a compelling change vision? Does it give your employees a sense of what the future looks like once the change has been achieved? Is it feasible and is it appealing? It’s generally true that people are willing to make sacrifices now if there is a better vision for the future. This leads to the question of the leadership that is driving the vision and change. What is a visionary leader?

In his book “Primal Leadership,” Daniel Coleman, the man who introduced the business world to the concept of emotional intelligence, describes the different styles of leadership. He described Visionary Leaders as charismatic, strategic and good communicators. It’s a style of leadership that is effective in moving an organization in a new direction, towards shared goals. It’s a style that frees employees and managers to be innovative and experimental. Even if you don’t naturally have these traits, the good news is you can cultivate most of them, since good leaders should be able to adapt themselves to every situation.

This year I urge you to cultivate your own leadership capabilities and have an audacious vision statement in terms of your own growth, both personally and in your business. Sound counsel, regular feedback and trusted long-term support from a community of like-minded passionate business leaders are some of the best ways I know to get those results.

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