The Power of Vision — What Great Leaders Have That Sets Them Apart

The one thing great leaders have that sets them apart from the rest is vision; a certain ability that enables them to see what lies ahead of them. A vision goes beyond setting goals, as it inspires new possibilities and ways of thinking about what’s possible. A vision paints a fuller picture describing our most cherished dreams, hopes, and possibilities for the future. Vision allows leaders to achieve greatness because when they visualize how great they want something to be, it removes any doubt they could have in their minds about it and encourages them to dedicate their lives towards achieving it.

Great leaders have vision. They can see what others don’t see and they organize and lead their followers toward a shared goal. Great leaders inspire loyalty, influence others, and excel in collaboration with others. Great leaders make sure that all team members stay motivated and engaged regardless of whether they’re working on small, menial tasks or big projects that have the potential to help save lives.

They can see things the rest of us cannot. Whereas most of us see a pile of parts, leaders see a beautiful masterpiece. Where most of us experience an office space with cubicles and conference rooms, leaders envision the team at their best and strongest; where most of us see a group of people with singled-out duties, leaders envision loyal team players who will go above and beyond for the greater good.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “Some people see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I see things that are not and ask ‘Why not?’”

Great leaders think ahead — evaluating each step before taking it and always trying to improve upon the experience moving forward. Great leaders are also humble — knowing when to step back from areas where someone else can do a better job at assisting with the work than they can themselves.

Management author Warren Bennis knew how important it was to have a vision for what you want to achieve. Intrigued by what made top leaders so special, he carried out a study of 90 leaders in the United States. He looked at people like Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who is the first man to set foot on the moon. What Bennis discovered they had in common was a clear and compelling vision of what they want to realise one day. They all see it right before their eyes and are always trying to get there every single day.

The ability to garner support from others, both within and outside of a company, for a particular cause or project is critical if that venture is going to achieve (or even exceed) its objectives. Visionary leaders may have a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. And the goals envisioned by those leaders do not necessarily need to be limited in scope; the very first man to step foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong, “thing” was his quest for flight. Goals set by other visionary leaders may vary but they all share one thing in common, they can clearly envision what it will take to achieve such goals and know exactly how they plan on doing so, regardless of the obstacles they encounter along their journey.

The best leaders pour their heart and soul into their vision and they don’t let anything or anyone stop them from getting there however long it may take. They think really big and put all of their energy into making it happen. There is a story about the late Walt Disney who passed away years before the first Disney World theme park opened. His story serves as an example of something inspirational leaders do — set high targets and have visions for longer periods than other people can typically achieve. Although most of us can only dream one or two years in advance when we’re lucky, outstanding leaders can easily foresee events that may unfold several decades down the road! One out of every million people has this exceptional ability to see what our world will look like decades from now — believe it or not, Japanese industrialist Konosuke Matsushita actually had a 250-year plan for his business when he founded Panasonic back in 1918!

Legend has it that Jobs convinced John Sculley, the CEO that orchestrated Apple’s purchase of NeXT, once said this to convinced him to join Apple, ” Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” “Sugar water” was a reference to Pepsi, which at the time was coming out ahead of Coca-Cola in the famous Cola-War. Today, Apple is changing the world on a grand scale.

Leaders shine a path by doing more than simply having a vision. They treat everyone like they are part of the team and engage employees using interactive tools and metaphors to explain how each team member is vital to achieving that goal. One way that leaders can motivate their teams as they strive towards accomplishing ambitious goals is by encouraging them to have an impact on something much bigger than just themselves. If you don’t think what you do on a daily basis matters, then why should your work make a difference? Leaders who instill this feeling in their teams will go far beyond creating something that is “the best” ever or even just the best at their category but create a completely new standard for all industries to follow.

Dreams without action are just that — a dream. We need to focus on the steps it’s going to take in order for us to realize our vision. To bring your vision into being, it’s important to see the distance between your present position and where you want to be in the future (the end point of achieving your desired outcome). You can’t do this if you’re unable to create a complete picture of what needs doing in the first place.

“Helicopter vision” is the ability to see across seemingly disparate parts of life simultaneously as if viewing them from a helicopter so you get a sense why certain things must change now and others have plenty time before they present themselves as “immediate”. This allows for the clarity that enables long-term decisions, enables you to align your tactical actions, operational planning, and overall strategy and gives you a clear map to turn your dreams into a reality.

Many people dream, but few follow through. Leaders know that sometimes we need a little nudge to help us move forward. Leaders make a difference in more ways than one and they do this by pouring their heart into the vision of something bigger than themselves, as well as empowering others to reach the potential we know lies within each one of us. They help us make the changes needed to achieve success by caring for our needs while also nurturing us along the way.

Learn more about how to develop your leadership skills: Effective Leadership

Or contact me today for a complementary Strategy Session: Leadership Strategy Session

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Lorna Weston-Smyth

Equipping Ordinary People to Become Extraordinary Leaders • Executive Coach, Trainer and Speaker