WHAT IS VISION AND WHAT IS VISIONARY LEADERSHIP?
Anyone who ever left a permanent mark and indelible footprint on this world, first had a dream, whether they created a movement, lead a country, or created and ran a business.
It all starts with a dream.
Remember the “I have a dream” speech, one of the most iconic and landmark speeches in history. The speech was defining moment of the civil rights movement in America. Every dream starts with an idea, an imagination, a fantasy of what’s possible.
The dream is nothing but the art of seeing the invisible and imagining the impossible. Vision is the art of making the invisible visible and impossible possible. Vision is transforming that dream into a reality. A leader who does this transformation is called a visionary.
Vision is the essence of a successful leader and the very core of effective leadership. Without a vision, there can be no effective leadership.
The year was 1983, Howard Schultz was on a business trip to Italy. What charmed him was not the renaissance sculptors but the amazing coffee culture of Italy. While walking on the street one day, he walked into a café and tasted his first espresso coffee.
The coffee tasted good but what captivated Schultz was the culture built around coffee. He saw people relaxing in a café, meeting, networking, and socializing. The bar owner knew many people by their names. He was completely bitten by the romance of the coffee experience. He immediately knew what to do next.
He dreamt of a grand vision, where he saw people in America carrying their cups of coffee and experiencing the same coffee romance. He got determined to convert his vision into a reality.
Back in the US, he approached 242 investors pitching his idea of starting coffee stores throughout the USA. 217 investors rejected the idea, but he persisted.
Another quality and trait of a visionary leader: persistence.
If you believe in it, then never give up. His vision made his dream turn into a reality and “Starbucks” was born.
In just over 30 years under the visionary leadership of Howard Schultz, Starbucks is now worth 25 billion dollars with more than 30000 outlets with a presence in more than 75 countries.
Mahatma Gandhi had a vision of free India. India got independence in 1947.
John F Kennedy had a vision of putting a man on the moon. It came true in 1969.
Steve Jobs had a vision of using technology to change the world for the better and he created iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Now the whole world is addicted to them.
Shahjahan had a vision of building a mausoleum the world had never seen before in the memory his eternal love-Mumtaz Mahal. He created the Taj Mahal a monument of eternal beauty that defies words.
Sam Walton had the vision to give consumers what they needed at the lowest price possible to save them money. He created Walmart.
Larry Page had a vision of making the world’s information accessible to all. Google was created. Now impossible to live life without it.
All these at one point in time were once impossible dreams, fantasies, and imaginations. A person stood up and led the dream come true, turned fantasy into a reality, imagination into creation. While others saw impossibility, they saw possibility. In this, they created and changed the world forever.
The question is why do company’s need vision and visionary leadership?
The answer to this makes me remind of a beautiful story of 4 dear friends.
Back in the 80’s, the father of one of the friends bought a new car, a luxury in those times. The other friends too were equally excited and wanted to go on a long drive to feel the experience.
One weekend, they all got into the car and drove on the highway. They drove the car for some time savoring the thrill of the drive. They reached a 5-point crossing on the highway. These were the times when there were no signboards, no GPS, no maps, and no milestones. They halted and decided to seek help from the locals for direction.
Looking around they saw an old man sitting under the shade of a tree across the road. One of the boys got down and approached the old man, “Can you tell me” said the boy, pointing his finger in one direction, “where does this road go?”
The old man looked at him and with a faint smile asked him, “son, exactly where do you want to go?”
The young boy was caught off-guard. Gathering himself he said, “I have no idea where we want to go.”
“Great, there is nothing to worry then,” said the old man, “for if you don’t know where you want to go, then take any road, it will lead you to your destination. But only if,” continued the old man “you can tell me where you want to go, can then I tell you which road leads to the place.”
So true! Just stop, pause, think, and reflect!
Your vision is where you want to go.
A vision is a compass, GPS, roadmap, and signboard of your journey.
They give purpose, direction, meaning, and power.
In the business world which operates in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment, vision is a very important tool in a leader’s toolkit.
A vision is what a leader creates and lets it serve as a “North-Star” for his people to follow. If you are not a student of astronomy, let me tell you what is a NorthStar. Long before, when there was no GPS, Compass, and Satellite, sailors on sea used North Star because of its consistent position in the sky as a navigational tool to set direction. It would then act as a light-house or lampposts.
So, when there is a sea of uncertainty all around and the darkness of ambiguity set’s in, a vision becomes a company NorthStar allowing it to navigate in the choppy waters of the business world. It guides the organization and its people in the right direction.
Hoping to hear from you! Please share your opinion and viewpoint on this topic in the comments section below.
Happy Visioning and Leading.