Every leader needs a clear vision. However, much like common sense, vision is anything but common and frequently unclear.
Regardless of the size of your organization, here are three perspectives you can apply in order to create, communicate and advance your vision forward.
1. Diagnostic Perspective
Before a vision can be created, you need to understand what’s worked before and what hasn’t. It’s critical to recognize the current position of your organization and use that as a starting point.
Additionally, it’s critical to identify existing obstacles, procedures and personalities that may undermine your vision at various stages. These may be difficult for you to see, especially if you’ve been with the organization for a long time. Institutional "blind spots” develop over time, unnoticed.
Once you have completed your diagnostics and have a clear view of the organization and its needs, it's important to incorporate the findings into the overall vision.
2. Innovation Perspective
Innovation is often “hiding in plain sight," which requires a specific perspective to help pop it into view.
Consider the challenges of trying to innovate the following commoditized products: paint, glass and duct tape. Those are pretty dull and boring at first glance with little growth potential. For decades, industry leaders did not see a way to innovate on those products and increase their revenue. Yet:
- Sherwin-Williams developed a square, stackable, pourable paint container that revolutionized the industry.
- Corning innovated away from cookware to fiber optic cables, flat-screen TVs and biotech lab tools.
- Duck Brand duct tape breathed new life and profitability into the category with fashion-focused line extensions in a rainbow of patterns and colors.
In each case, the opportunity for innovation was always there -- anybody could have innovated at anytime but didn't. It took visionary leaders to create an environment where others within the organization could see the opportunity that was right in front of their eyes, articulate it and bring it forward.
3. Unseen Perspective
Visionary leaders ultimately have to lead an organization down a path it has never traveled before. This requires the use of the “unseen” perspective, which will set the course for the desired future state. Past and recent history are packed with examples:
- Christopher Columbus had to apply this perspective when he set off to find the new world, at a time when everyone thought the world was flat.
- President Kennedy had to apply this perspective when he pledged 1961 that the US would put an American on the moon "before this decade is out."
- Steve Jobs did it repeatedly when he challenged Apple to launch the iPod, MacBook , iTunes and iPhone.
As a visionary leader, you need to be your organization’s oracle, driving its performance down a pioneering path into the future. To be a positive, transformational leader you need a clear vision if your organization is going to survive and thrive.
But you and the vision are indistinguishable. Without a clear vision, you won’t last. And without a visionary leader, neither will the vision.