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Are You a Visionary Leader? Here's How to Tell (and What You Can Do to Become One) What the world needs now is leaders who think differently. How do you stack up?

By Jarrett Preston Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Visionary leadership goes beyond hard work; it's about purposeful innovation, seeing the big picture and being committed to an outcome.
  • Developing a visionary approach involves asking better questions, prioritizing the right values and daring to step beyond conventional thinking.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everyone wants to know how to be a powerful leader that transforms business, but too many assume that hard work is all you need to get there. If there's one thing I've learned in my time as CEO at Idoneus, it's that all that work is only made relevant by the vision behind it.

Do you want to just run a great business, or are you interested in being a leader that makes a lasting impact on the world? The difference between those two things all comes down to visionary thinking. If you're ready to sharpen your gaze, keep reading.

Related: 3 Perspectives of Visionary Leaders

What makes a visionary?

The phrase "leaders lead" appears frequently, but what they should be leading with is often left out. I'd argue that it's all about vision. It's what celebrated entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Estée Lauder all had in common. It's why we still refer to them and their work decades after their business ventures first began.

Thankfully, as with any thinking strategy, there are muscles we can each develop to make ourselves stronger in these areas. To check your strength level, consider these visionary values below and whether or not you've been applying them:

A sense of purpose:

Purpose is a powerful business tool. We know that it can drive on-the-ground success with employees and that it links heavily to a greater sense of ambition. It's also a central part of visionary thinking.

A true visionary is looking to do more than simply make money. They're looking for ways to use their skills and ideas to improve their communities, have a positive impact and ultimately change the world. I often refer to this as "purposeful innovation." Innovating for the sake of it can be lucrative, but true success comes from innovation that is anchored by purpose.

Henry Ford didn't just want to build cars, he wanted to change how they were made — and in doing so, he managed to change the world.

Seeing the big picture:

A great entrepreneur is not afraid to get lost in the details, but if you're trying to transform your business approach, you have to be able to step back and see the wide-angle view. It's a leader's job to see more than everyone else. Don't be afraid to look.

That's where you get a sense of the gaps and the possibility of where you can push yourself and your work further. As this research paper on entrepreneurship aptly notes, however, imagination is another crucial part of transformation in business. A true visionary doesn't just see the big picture. They have the imagination to craft a better one.

Being committed to the outcome:

I've spoken before about the difference between being committed and being involved and will reiterate here just how important it is to be completely committed to an outcome.

Visionary thinkers don't just see what the outcome looks like but can see their projects right to the end. They're mentally, emotionally and physically dedicated to doing whatever is needed. That's why they're able to create businesses and build projects that not only succeed but are remembered.

Related: 5 Skills Needed by Every Entrepreneur to Become a Visionary Leader

How do you become a visionary?

You may feel that the visionary values discussed are already in your lexicon, but if you're struggling, consider taking the time to develop your thinking. Here's how:

1. Ask better questions:

It's fundamental to strategic thinking in any regard, but asking better questions is absolutely fundamental when developing a visionary approach to business. Get curious about what questions you haven't been asking up until this point and new voices or ideas you can engage with to expand yourself. Visionaries build their sense of vision by engaging with the world around them. That's what makes them such dynamic leaders and so good at cultivating growth.

2. Prioritize the right values:

I'm not saying you ought to be a saint, but I do think that simply approaching everything from the mindset of "I have this idea that I can make millions from" lacks vision. Instead, if you were to say, "I have this idea that could change the world and make it better — and it could make millions," you're then entering into a different realm. Prioritizing the value you can add, not just the dollars you can make, is what builds a true visionary.

3. Step beyond the crowd:

Don't be afraid to go further with an idea than most. Visionaries see past the crowd and past the norms. They see past the no's. They see the chance to transform the assembly line or build the world's best personal computer, and they go for it. That's what makes for the kind of leaders that decorate history books.

Related: The Ultimate 7-Step CEO Guide to Visionary Leadership

Are you a visionary? Yes or no, the point is that anyone can be. You just need to adjust your mindset to a value-first approach and be willing to step back from the world and look at it differently. Practice this as often as you can. Not only will it transform your thinking, but it will certainly transform your business.

Jarrett Preston

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Idoneus, a leading blockchain-based asset trading platform.

Jarrett Preston is the author of the bestselling book, “Billions Under Pressure: The Art and Science of Creating, Exchanging and Protecting Value”, CEO of Idoneus, a philanthropist, and Veteran of the US Marine Corps.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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