On October 6, we hosted a 100 leaders for a leadership conference in Raleigh called, “Live2Lead” where leadership expert, John Maxwell, served as one of the speakers. During his talk, John stated that the number one characteristic of an effective leader is vision. The best leaders lead by their ability to see more than others see, and see it before others see it. I have always been a visionary. Whether it was playing sports or planning a party, I could see things before they happened. In fact, before I founded Leaders Building Leaders, I envisioned you being in the crowd and participating in one of our trainings. I envisioned us, as a team, giving back to the community that hosted the session.
While being a visionary is great, I understand how and why having a few too many visions can be frustrating to my team. Oftentimes, I take off on another initiative before the last one has been fully accomplished.
An effective leader remains focused and in control. Controlling your direction is better than being controlled by it. You want the map before you take a trip into the woods.
Where there is no vision, the people will perish.
Isn’t this a true statement? Think about any organization you left or had a bad culture. Were you ever sure where the organization was going? Whose fault was this? The leader, of course.
First-rate leaders always have in mind that other people are depending on them and their ability to chart a great course. Think about an organization you have worked for or have been a part of that was successful. Doesn’t it always seem like everyone is very clear about what the organization is seeking to accomplish and who is responsible for what? Even when things go awry, they never skip a beat. Do you know why? The leader of course!
Everything comes down to leadership. Before strong leaders take their people on a journey, they go through a process in order to give the journey the best chance of being successful. Your lack of preparation will lead to lack of trust and accomplishment. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
How do I get better?
John Maxwell points out these four key steps to becoming a visionary leader:
Step 1: Evaluative Experience. Every past success and failure you have experienced, or experienced by others, can be a valuable source of information and wisdom – if you allow it to be. Successes teach you what you are capable of and build confidence. However, your failures often teach greater lessons. Unfortunately, too many people cover up their failures instead of analyzing them. Take the time daily, weekly, monthly and annually to reflect on your small and large accomplishments and failures. You will gain a stronger perspective, confidence in decision making and clarity of “the bigger picture.”
Step 2: Examine the Conditions. When you reflect, you draw from within. When you examine, you look outward. No effective leader commits to plans without paying close attention to the conditions. This might mean taking a look at finances, resources, and talent. There also intangibles such as morale, timing, momentum and culture. It is possible to make the right decision at the wrong time or with the wrong people.
Step 3: Listen to Others. Great leaders get their information from all types of sources. They are intentional about getting information from their leadership team and from those closest to the action. They know you cannot move forward with top-down information so they go right to the source. In addition, they will seek out leaders or organizations who are on their way back from where they want to go.
Step 4: Ensure Conclusions are Faith and Fact. Effective leaders have a positive attitude and an abundance mindset. They have faith in their people to bring these opportunities to reality. However, great leaders are most effective at minimizing illusions and defining reality. As Jim Collins said in his book Good to Great, “As a leader you need balance, optimism and realism, intuition and planning, faith vs. facts.”
Increase Your Vision
It is hard to have vision if you have yet to open your eyes. If you cannot take the trip in your mind, you cannot make it in reality. Here are some ideas to strengthen your vision:
- Take time each week to reflect and examine your calendar to see where you are spending your time. Utilize a journal to capture your thoughts. When you calendar your week, build reflective time in after each project; write down your successes (or failures), what you learned and what you read through each week.
- Have a project coming up? Draw on past experiences, and find other leaders who have already been through this experience to mentor you. Mentors are critical. Visit successful organizations and learn how they execute large projects and initiatives.
- Develop a thinking team-not just a leadership team. Find individuals from all stakeholder levels to bring new ideas to the table. Practice saying “yes, and…” instead of saying “yes, but…” to every idea. This will keep your team thinking about how to bring solutions instead of harping on the problem.
This blog was written by leadership coach, Dr. Thomas Miller. If you found the content valuable, please share. If you would like to learn more, reach out to Tom for a free coaching session at [email protected].