How to Avoid Leaders who Lack Vision
Why Vision MattersA leader’s vision gives you hope for the future, a sense of purpose for the work that you do, and it creates energy and momentum for positive change.
I’ve seen this first-hand in my wife’s creative vision. She builds brands in the CPG industry. She paints a vivid and colorful picture of what’s possible. She inspires hope among the teams that she leads. She works with her creative teams and suppliers to rapidly prototype new products and get feedback. She looks for signals in the marketplace about what consumers like and what they want more of. And she has a “can-do” spirit that is contagious among the teams she leads. I’d work for her in a heartbeat!
Why a Good Vision is Hard to Find
The trouble is, most leaders lack vision. And leaders who have a vision often struggle to communicate it in a compelling manner.
I’ve trained hundreds of leaders on “vision-casting“ (i.e., how to create and communicate vision), and it is one of the most difficult exercises to teach a leader. Here’s why:
1. Only 1 in 5 leaders is truly future-focused. Leaders who have vision and are true futurists are the minority mindset in most organizations. That means 80% of leaders have to dig deep or rely on a support system to create and communicate a compelling vision.
2. Leaders tend to achieve success by following the rules, rather than breaking the rules. Corporate life is all about consensus. Leaders hire and promote other leaders who think and behave like they do. This is a “likeness” bias in talent selection.
3. Culture kills vision. Given that only 20% of organizations are made up of future-focused leaders, organizational culture tends to squash ideas that don’t fit the mold or the “way things are around here.”
4. Visions are risky. Leaders may have a vision, but be reluctant to share that vision for fear of being criticized or being perceived negatively. And finally,
5. Communicating a vision in a compelling manner is difficult. Leaders often lack the ability to be aspirational and inspirational. A vision must also be realistic and within the realm of possibility. A powerful vision-casting message must contain passion and energy, but be balanced with logic and a practical edge.
Five Ways to Avoid Leaders Who Lack Vision
1. Look for the outliers. Who are the leaders and teams who are on the margins? What are the start-up projects that have a small team of innovators and futurists doing cool work? Chances are there’s a leader with a powerful vision in that group or sponsoring that group. Find them.
2. Focus on the future. Look for leaders who don’t just talk about what is or what was, but who talk about what’s possible.
3. Ask and listen. Whether you’re interviewing or exploring a new partnership, ask those in influential positions what their vision around X,Y, or Z might be. Questions that sound like this are powerful: How might we...? What do you see the future of our team or industry looking like?
4. Risky business. One characteristic of future-focused leaders is their healthy risk appetite. Avoid leaders who are too risk averse. Look for leaders who are willing to place bets on the future and who don’t just talk the talk, but who walk the walk.
5. Be a visionary leader. Create your own compelling vision of what’s possible for your project, team, or your business. Practice casting that vision and painting a compelling picture of what could be. Don’t be afraid to start with a small vision and work your way up to more compelling audacious visions!
Discover your Future Focus Mindset and how you can use it to become a more visionary leader on my home page. And check out this article on unlocking the power of your team‘s mindset for the future here.