Never Lose Sight of your Leadership Vision
Written by Mariateresa Romeo
If you struggle to establish yourself as a leader, your vision is a critical aspect you need to work on.
Vision is one of the essential hallmarks of effective leadership.
It is the feature that politicians, activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and anyone who changed history, society, and people’s lives and behaviors across the ages have in common. We call a “leader” anyone who motivates and inspires others to follow a particular path, regardless of the context, personal characteristics, interests, and goals they want to achieve.
The fundamental presupposition of a leader is their ability to propose a new idea of the future, a new course of action, and generate consensus by igniting others’ passions and motivations.
Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” On a more practical note, vision is a clear, distinctive, and specific view of a desirable future aligned with our values, beliefs, and purpose.
But vision, if not properly nurtured and managed, can become a weak spot for many established leaders and be the main challenge for those who aspire to leadership roles.
In fact, in every sense of making a pun here, leaders may lose their charisma and fail to guide others because they lose sight of their vision.
When coaching clients struggling to establish themselves as leaders, I found concentrating the work on three fundamental questions extremely helpful.
1) What is your vision statement?
Whether in an executive position in a large organization or charge of a team of five people, you must have a long-term goal or an idea of progress or development that is not all about you but is beneficial for others (your team, organization, or even the society and community you belong to). The most common mistake is that people who are in positions to inspire others and set the direction focus most of their energy on short-term goals or minor accomplishments. In a nutshell, they act as managers, not leaders. They lack a clear and appealing long-term vision, and consequently, people around them experience the sense of “going blind,” disengaged, and not fully aware of their goals and priorities.
2) How do you communicate your vision?
The Internet is full of examples of great leaders’ vision statements. The more effective are those able to describe what they want to accomplish in a few powerful words.
Jeff Bezos’ statement is a case in point: “Be the store for everything, A-Z.” A short, clear, and easy-to-remember sentence to summarize what Amazon aims to accomplish.
But the words you use are only one aspect of your communication. It is not enough that your team is aware of its goals and the roadmap to achieve them. It is necessary that each team member also wants to make it happen in their specific role and understands how. Your team behaviors will tell if they share your vision and, therefore, if you communicate it effectively.
When leaders don’t communicate their vision properly, the team experience lack of progress, gets stuck, and struggles to move the meter in any direction.
3) What does make your vision relevant to others?
A critical aspect of each vision statement is that it must sound desirable, as it meets specific individuals’ and groups’ needs. Historically, leaders are innovative and revolutionary since they question the status quo and change people’s behaviors and customs. However, they are also grounded in their society; they embody the values of a group and act consistently with them.
Similarly, in the corporate environment, each leader must develop a vision that, albeit disruptive in some aspects, to some extent, aligns with the organization’s values and long-term purpose. At the same time, the leadership vision must resonate with individuals’ aspirations, goals, and values. That’s the fundamental condition to generate consensus and to have the necessary support to turn the vision into action.
How many leaders question their role or give up on their undertakings because they are tired of swimming against the tide? Likely the nature and extent of their ideas are too much for the society or organization they operate. Despite their efforts and determination, they realize the people around them are unprepared for the change.
That’s one of the most complex leadership challenges.
If you ask yourself if it makes sense to continue to carry on your vision, take a step back and consider if the ground where you planted your ideas is fertile enough to make them grow. Besides, reading the events and deciding and acting at the right time is another fundamental leadership skill to develop.
The ideas people have in mind when approaching a coaching relationship or the criteria people use to call themselves coaches are numerous and sometimes ambiguous. I established my coaching practice on some cornerstones that help me effectively lead and support clients and clarify what to expect from my services. Based on my experience as a coach and as a coaching client, this is how I work.
Italians call it “dolce far niente”. It means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It consists of enjoying the place and the company you are with at that moment, without plans, schedules, and most importantly, without the urge to do something and be busy.
We must admit that cultural integration in the US workplace is more than just a language problem