Visionary leaders have a compelling vision for their organization. They can see beyond the ambiguity and challenges of today to an empowering picture of tomorrow. ~Scott Jeffrey
Just imagine… That’s how a former boss would frequently begin strategic discussions. He was always imagining what a new future could look like. When he took the helm, this organization was not at all thriving, and it was just barely surviving. Many thought his vision was a little “pie in the sky.” A few years later, this organization transformed itself from surviving to thriving, and that not-so-believable vision became reality.
It all started with a consistent posture to “just imagine.” He was always willing, and capable, of seeing beyond the ambiguity and challenges. And he just kept telling that same story of “just imagine…,” over and over.
Some people believe that when a leader sets a clear vision that it feels authoritarian or dictatorial. It’s anything but that. They aren’t seeking control over their employees. As Jeffrey says, “they provide freedom to employees to determine the best path to actualizing this vision.”
I believe that a clear vision provides a necessary constraint to spark creativity. When employees are given a blank slate and then asked to be entrepreneurial, I see employees who feel paralyzed. The possibilities are endless; therefore, they crave direction to narrow the focus and provide a path to guide their thinking.
Vision work is hard, maybe some of the hardest. A leader may have a clear vision in their own mind, but translating that vision into something with real clarity is a whole other challenge.
A Few Tips for Articulating a Compelling Vision
- Keep it very simple. A good test that is frequently suggested is to explain your vision so that a 12-year-old could understand it. Don’t include unnecessary details. Keep it simple.
- Practice articulating it and see if you can do it in three sentences or less. If it takes more than three sentences you may be making it too complicated.
- Paint a picture. Consider using visuals, photos, illustrations, diagrams; something that visually paints a picture of the future you are trying to create. [Personal note, I’ve often found it helpful to force myself to draw, not write, anything that I’m trying to clearly explain. This has been a significant help to me on a number of occasions.]
“Make your vision so clear that your fears become irrelevant.” (Anonymous) And keep leading with bold grace.