Are You A Visionary Leader?

MONTGOMERY, AL - MARCH 25: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking before crowd of 25,000 Selma To Montgomery, Alabama civil rights marchers, in front of Montgomery, Alabama state capital building. On March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images)

A visionary leader plants a seed of the organization’s vision in the hearts of employees that must be powerful enough in order to encourage everybody to rise up to its call.

By Special Correspondent

Leading any considerable organizational change needs visionary leadership. Visionary leaders are responsible for holding the vision of an organization and have the discipline, strength, and passion to hold that vision through the whole process and simultaneously leading others into the manifestation of that vision.

“Vision exists when people in an organization share a clear agreement on the values, beliefs, purposes, and goals that guide their behavior, simply referred to as internal compass,” David Conley.

A visionary leader plants a seed of the organization’s vision in the hearts of employees, which must be powerful in order to encourage everybody to rise up to its call.  He aligns all people to share this higher purpose and work towards achieving the goals with creativity, joy, inspiration, and imagination.

Visionary leaders are the builders of a new dawn, working with imagination, insight, and boldness. They present a challenge that calls forth the best in people and binding them around a shared sense of purpose. They work with the power of intentionality and alignment with a higher purpose. They are social innovators and change agents, seeing the bigger picture and thinking strategically.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

An example of a visionary leader is Martin Luther King, Jr. King had a divinely clear vision and expressed it magnificently in his, “I Have a Dream” speech.  While his goals may have included various steps along the way to passing civil rights legislation, his vision was so much bigger than his goals. It described exactly what it looked like when the real impact of his goals were felt.

The best visionary leaders move energy to a higher level by offering a clear vision of what is possible. They inspire people to be better than they already are and help them identify with what Lincoln called “the angels of their better nature.”  This was the power of Martin Luther King’s speech. Like King, they have the ability to sense the deeper spiritual needs of their followers and link their current demands to these deeper, often unspoken, needs for purpose and meaning.

Another visionary leader is Ray Anderson. At Interface Carpets Company, he took courageous action in transforming it into the most environmentally sustainable corporation.  Interface launched a massive effort to cut its use of energy, replace petroleum-based supplies with vegetable-based substitutes and reduce emissions by 24 per cent. Customers nowadays do not buy a wall-to-wall carpet–they rent one–and when it wears out, all its component parts are recycled, and the customer receives a new one.

Visionary leaders transform old mental paradigms and create strategies that are “outside the box” of conventional thought. They embody a balance of rational and intuitive functions. Their thinking is broad and systemic, seeing the big picture, the entire system, and the pattern that connects. They then create innovative strategies for actualizing their vision, for instance, CNN founder Ted Turner transformed television news by boldly creating an around-the-clock international news network.

Elements of a Visionary Leader

Leadership structure controls the decision-making process. Visionary leadership allows responsibility all the way down to the bottom line. Standard leadership limits decision making to management.

Achievers – Everyone wants to be an achiever in and out of the workplace. With workplace ambitions, leadership promotes or kills this desire.

Elementary problems – Leadership style controls the level of elementary problems, which controls workplace efficiency. Level of elementary problems is controlled, in part, by learning opportunities and leader’s personal priority.

Natural talent – Leadership style controls the ability to recognize natural talent. No one knows what their true capabilities are until they are given opportunity and responsibility.

Skill level – The ability and desire to share knowledge with coworkers influences the continuing education level of the workforce, thereby, increasing skill level and the value of their services. Workplace education is dead for people who only follow orders.

Getting the job done – Projects only have value when the job is completed. Competitive value depends on the efficiency of getting the job done, which is based on keeping elementary problems at a minimum. Efficiency is also a byproduct of employees’ attitude towards their job. Leadership, opportunity and responsibility influence attitude.

Why Visionary Leadership?

In organizations with visionary leaders, people perform tasks because they are happy. In the same manner, the whole organization possesses a certain degree of semi religious cohesiveness and a sense of solidarity because all people share a common cause.

Secondly, it brings out the best in people and makes them perform beyond their imagined limitations. Employees are happy not only because their leader is the best, but because they have become their best selves because of their leader.

Further, the mechanisms of control including rewards and punishments become internal rather than external. Employees do things right because they understand them in their hearts and not because of some external monetary rewards, social commendations or promotions.

Besides, it easily transcends individual personality eccentricities and differences that characterize many office-related wrangling. The leader and the staff have a sense of communion. The members accept each other because they share the same dreams and work together in order to make the dreams come true.

Furthermore, visionary leadership empowers all members to be strong to face and overcome challenges despite the odds. The reason is that their vision is larger than themselves. They do not work for selfish purposes, but with a sense of mission and meaning that provides spiritual energy to everybody in the organization. Therefore, the morale of the group is always high as they are always ready to face setbacks.

Such leaders anticipate change and are proactive, rather than reactive to events. Their focus is on opportunities, not on problems.  They emphasize win/win–rather than adversarial win/lose–approaches. This is the strategy of environmental economist Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win/Win World. Moreover, a visionary leader is effective in manifesting his vision because he creates specific, achievable goals, initiates action and enlists the participation of others. It is better to be 10 per cent effective doing something worthwhile than 100 per cent effective at something worthless.

Nonetheless, being visionary is not enough. Leaders must lead- focus on their thoughts and efforts at where they can make a difference. “If you cannot change something, find something else you can, and will change.”



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