— Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
As a conscientious leader and human being, you can be an antidote to stress and an active invitation to thriving, for yourself, your workplace and family, and well beyond. How? Tap into a human energy always at your disposal: the power of vision.
Vision—the higher aspiration that inspires commitment and drives action—is part of the DNA of great organizations. A compelling vision catalyzes world-class performance, innovation, and superior returns to investors. It motivates people to move with optimism toward a future that they may have never before imagined. Vision also brings the decisions of departments and teams into a galvanizing alignment with the direction of the organization, and improves the morale and performance of workforces.
Simply put, leading by vision is a powerful act which brings once-dreamed-of thoughts and emotions into tangible existence. A persuasive and life-enhancing vision, applied at the right place and the right time, can channel human energies into creative, sustainable results.
When my firm Wisdom Works surveyed 527 women leaders across a large, global company about the power of a conscious vision in their lives and work, what we discovered was convincing! The leaders who “Frequently” to “Always” used a personal vision and clear priorities to guide life-work decisions also reported the highest ratings in four key areas—effectiveness at getting results, feeling recognized by others, success at making changes in their own behavior when needed, and overall happiness and fulfillment. Plus, those same leaders reported healthier behaviors in eighteen factors (such as exercise, emotional fitness, altruism, and optimism) contributing to their personal wellness and resilience. They learned through experience: leading by vision is a strategy for thriving.
Let’s face it: Without the ability to lead by a clear vision, you are constantly pulled into the high-activity-mire of today’s problems. You become unwittingly trapped in a cycle of “doing, doing, doing” which cuts off new possibilities for happiness, effectiveness, and growth. And, you’re left with little time for clarifying the aspirations and larger goals which could lead to extraordinary results for the organization, your leadership role, and last, but not least, your personal life.
Are You Ready to Lead by Vision?
Ever notice that human beings are innately creative? We’re hard-wired from birth to bring new ideas into existence. This means the basic intelligence for leading by vision is already deep within our bones. Yet, you turn this intelligence into real power when you decide—in the privacy of your heart or out loud for all to hear—that you are ready to consciously live your life and lead others with a “vision” as part of your compass.
To be a leader of vision means to bring forth a potent new reality that stirs the deepest of human emotions, fuels the highest of dreams, and engages whole-hearted participation. Who can forget the seemingly impossible yet thrilling vision proposed by the United States President, John F. Kennedy, in 1961: Send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. This bold vision propelled America into the Space Age, accelerating the country’s technological development at lightning speed and fostering wonder and delight within millions worldwide.
If you are serious about leading by vision then, as a start, consider making these behaviors a priority in your leadership repertoire:
- Take time to quiet your mind—possibly through a mindfulness practice—to identify what leading from vision truly means to you.
- Reach out to people who embody visionary leadership in action. Can’t think of anyone? Then take a look at Conscious Company and Real Leaders magazines, as well as my Face of Wellbeing Leadership blog series, chocked full of inspiring stories of aspirational leaders driven to foster flourishing organizations and communities. Allow their stories to inspire a meaningful vision within you.
- Get clear about a vision that matters to you, and connect with it each morning to set the tone for your day.
- Notice when you become fearful, kneejerk, or scattered (here are a few cues), and use your larger vision to help you refocus your energies to a healthier course.
- Look for ways to inspire people to operate from vision, too. Every action we take affects our individual and collective futures … why not seek to shape our future from life-enhancing visions rather than reactivity and stress?
When you operate from vision, you hold true it despite the inevitable distractions along the way. Sounds great on paper, right? But if, up to now, you’ve been (like most of us) stuck in the cycle of doing, doing, doing, becoming a visionary leader is a journey in itself. Luckily, when you travel this journey, you benefit your organization, your life, and all who you touch.
To step on this journey, start by seeing yourself in a visionary way: What visionary behaviors, even small ones, can you imagine bringing into your role today? Using your answer as a navigational compass, make conscious choices about how to you spend your time and energies. This short-circuits reactivity, and is a choice-full act with is inherently energizing and satisfying.
And, while you build your skills to be visionary, remember the principle of the flywheel. Small pushes in the right direction build momentum, and eventually the flywheel spins at high speed on its own. Likewise, by maintaining your commitment to purposefully lead by vision, you become increasingly laser focused, more effective, and more energized. Your ability to engage and inspire others to actualize the vision rises exponentially, making it easier to weave it into the DNA of your organization, your leadership, and your life. And, visionary leader of Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunus says, you become better able to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole.
This post is excerpted from a Wisdom Works’ article, Vision: The DNA of Great Leadership, I co-wrote with dear colleague, friend, and masterful executive coach Jane Cocking. To learn about other transformative leadership articles, programs, coaching, and culture change services at Wisdom Works, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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