Spoiler Alert: It’s time for your company to move forward – and it will take a visionary leader to make it happen.
Company culture brings three key words to mind: mission, values, and vision. Mission, sometimes called a purpose statement, describes why a company exists; values describe how people interact within a company, and vision describes where a company will be in the future.
In talking with many company executives, vision is at the top of their minds right now. Where will their company be in the future, and what’s the path to get there? Do they bring everyone back into the office full-time, continue hybrid roles, or allow people to work fully remotely? How do they structure their teams? What’s the most effective way to continue growing clients and super-serving them in the future?
You may be asking yourself some of the same questions right now. The answer to all of these questions boils down to your vision or your future where. Will you continue to move forward, or is it better to revert back to who you used to be?
You already know what we think.
Your vision is critical to your company culture, and you need a visionary leader to bring it to life.
What is a Visionary Leader?
Visionary is defined as thinking about the future using imagination and wisdom. It’s viewing the world as it could be, not just as it has been, and identifying potential where others cannot. If you have a little one at home, you may be thinking of them right now – overloaded with imagination and what-ifs! Children consistently see potential where others can’t and use their imaginations to design what could be. Although, the wisdom portion of “visionary” probably hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Sure - you, too, can be a visionary, but simply being a visionary doesn’t make you a visionary leader. To be a visionary leader is to turn your vision into action through your people. You must identify your vision, clearly articulate it, and stoke the fire within your team to get them on board. Visionary leadership is challenging! But, it’s a challenge that some of the most successful entrepreneurs have embraced with open arms.
Examples of Visionary Leadership
Henry Ford – Ford Motor Company
Henry Ford had a vision that inspired thousands: to build and market a simple, strong, reliable, and affordable car for the masses. He viewed the world as it could be by committing not only to building the cars but by making his commitment to the masses as well. As a matter of fact, his vision was so inspiring that he successfully used it to gain investment from others.
Ford identified and attracted outstanding people through his ability to see potential where others couldn’t. He then harnessed his vision and turned it into action through his teammates and employees. Ford summed it up well when he said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Reed Hastings - Netflix
Hastings founded Netflix in 1997 with an initial vision: Save consumers’ time and money by shipping movies directly to their houses. He was initially successful with Netflix’s first business model. But, as with many visionary leaders, the key to Reed Hastings’ success was his transformational vision. He is known for saying, “Don’t be afraid to change the model.”
Hastings wasn’t done innovating after his first taste of success. His vision evolved – what if consumers could stream movies directly to their TVs and avoid the mailbox entirely? Hastings saw the future as it could be and painted the picture for his team. Streaming didn’t even exist at the time! Of course, we all know how the story ends. But keep in mind – if Netflix had remained a DVD rental business, it would have followed Blockbuster’s path.
Nick Woodman - GoPro
Nick Woodman’s name may not be as familiar to you. Woodman started GoPro, a company that’s made him one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires. His vision was born from surfing: he wanted to have the ability to take videos and photos while he was out in the water. Woodman’s vision then evolved the include the masses.
Throughout his time as an entrepreneur, Woodman has failed time and time again. His setbacks would have caused most people to throw the towel in. The key to Woodman’s visionary leadership is his flexibility and vulnerability. He’s coined the acronym FAIL – From Action I Learn. He successfully maneuvered through obstacles, keeping his vision and his people at the forefront of it all.
Benefits of Visionary Leadership
Is your imagination sparking yet with ideas for the vision of your own company? Hopefully, your wheels are turning. It’s easy to see the financial benefits of visionary leadership if we look at Ford, Hastings, and Woodman’s stories, but let’s look at the additional benefits you’ll see by embracing visionary leadership. All of these benefits go hand-in-hand.
Painting a vision and turning it into action through your people will strengthen the culture of your organization. People want to feel connected to the bigger picture of the organization and understand the impact they have every day. Visionary leaders have the ability to rally everyone together and move them forward toward a common goal. The mission, or why, and the values, or how, are ultimately born from the vision.
As we learned in Nick Woodman’s story, visionary leadership also establishes psychological safety by creating an environment where it’s okay to be innovative, even if it means making mistakes. When people feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable, it brings the team closer together.
High Levels of Engagement
From strong cultures, engaged employees are born. According to Forbes, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover.
Engagement is the emotional commitment and willingness to give your best at work. Employees who come to work every day excited about the where, why, and how are naturally engaged in what they’re doing. A visionary leader ensures everyone’s on board and working together towards the common vision.
Decreased Quiet Quitting
I don’t need to define it. At this point, everyone knows what quiet quitting is. We also know that strong culture and high levels of employee engagement translate to low levels of quiet quitting. When employees are emotionally committed and willing to bring their best to work every day, quiet quitting isn’t a common theme. Visionary leadership sets the stage.
Attractive Employer Brand
Your employer brand is your company’s identity and reputation as an employer. With a visionary leader at the helm, it’s easy to establish a strong reputation. Your employees are energized and engaged, your customers and clients are benefitting, and the direction you’re heading is clear to everyone who wants to take a look. The Brandon Hall Group discovered that companies with strong employer brands are 3x more likely to make better hires. Employer brand is important to the sustainable growth of a company.
How to Become a Visionary Leader
As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
The first step to becoming a visionary leader is, of course, to dream up your vision. Imagine the future of your organization using innovation, creativity, and wisdom. Remember the visions of Ford, Hastings, and Woodman. Where do you see your organization three, five, and ten years from now? Start with a clean sheet of paper and begin reimagining.
Once your vision is defined, your ability to become a visionary leader relies heavily on your ability to create strong, lasting habits. Here are four areas to focus on:
1. Make it Actionable
Remember, the “leader” in visionary leadership turns a vision into action. Paint an inspiring picture of your vision, and be vulnerable! Let people know mistakes can, and will, be made.
Invite your team to come along with you on the journey and work with them to determine the why and the how behind the vision you’ve created. Make a habit of ensuring everyone’s voices are heard and valued along the way. Remember, it’s okay for your vision to change! Without anticipating change, Henry Ford and Reed Hastings would have very different stories.
2. Motivate Individuals
Each member of your team contributes to the success of your team overall. It’s important to devote time to getting to know each member of your team individually. Start by asking them to reflect on these four things:
- What’s motivating you to succeed?
- How do you like to be recognized?
- What should I always do when managing you?
- What should I never do when managing you?
Finding out these answers will help you push each individual’s hot buttons. Once you’ve learned that information, it’s time to ask yourself four questions:
- How can I motivate this individual?
- How can I recognize this individual?
- How can I coach to this person’s strengths?
- What should I never do in managing them?
- Keep this information in a safe place and make a habit of referring to it often.
3. Listen Impactfully
Too often, we listen to respond. Visionary leaders take the time to truly listen to their people. Instead of listening to respond, listen to hear what’s being said. There’s a reason we have two ears but only one mouth.
Habitually show an honest desire to understand what’s being said by eliminating all distractions and asking meaningful follow-up questions. Ensure psychological safety and exhibit empathy where it’s needed. And finally, be open to feedback. Feedback is a gift that leads to growth.
4. Embrace Failures
If Nick Woodman didn’t embrace his failures, GoPro wouldn’t exist. Visionary leaders embrace their failures and learn from them. When something fails, always take time to evaluate what went well, what you would change, and what you learned from the experience.
Maintaining resiliency and positivity will help your team maintain resiliency and positivity as well. As a leader, you’re setting an example for everyone to follow.
Let’s Tie it All Together
It’s time to move your company forward, and as a visionary leader, you can make that happen. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Ensure you clearly define your vision and create habits that support your vision along the way.
Sight is a function of your eyes, but vision is a function of your heart. Truly invest in your vision, and others will invest in it with you.