You probably also have lots of leadership heroes.
You know, those REALLY big ones!
Like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and so many more.
We all know what these ‘positive’ leaders have done and the positive changes they have achieved in the world. They’re amazing!
But we also know the big bad examples like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and unfortunately a whole lot more. Though you might not want to call them ‘great leaders’ it is a certainty that they have been able to achieve immense things.
And then there are the present day leaders that we all love hearing and reading all about like Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Ricardo Semler and again so many more.
It’s a long long list of examples of how to lead and how NOT to lead. From each individual we can take away different lessons in leadership style, communication and general inspiration.
But with all these differences, there is still 1 thing that they all have in common. 1 Thing that makes these people actual leaders.
And that 1 thing is: a really clear vision.
So What Is Vision?
Vision is the ability to see a future that is very likely beyond current knowledge or imagination. It is not necessarily tangible or measurable but you’ll know exactly when it’s there and when it’s not.
It is seeing the huge potential of personal computers in a time where they did not even exist and where everybody scoffed the idea (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs). It is imagining a world where everybody lives together in peace and harmony (John Lennon, Gandhi and many more of course). It is even imagining a world in which you dominate half the world (Hitler) or induce fear and terror in the Western world (Osama Bin Laden). It might not be nice and you might not be happy with it, but vision it is.
What Makes These Leaders So Successful?
Having a vision is one thing but if you can’t make it happen, it just remains a dream.
It’s something you’ll probably recognise from walking around with that 1 idea that you’re going to make happen ‘someday’. And even if you’re already making it happen (YAY for you!), you’ll still be able to empathise with that scary feeling of making that leap and really doing something about it.
And that’s exactly what our great leaders do too; they not only HAVE a vision, but they make it actionable.
First of all, they really LIVE it.
These leaders are in it for the long haul and there is a willingness and passion to put in everything necessary to make it happen. This could be hours and hours of hard work or even going on a hunger strike as a protest (Gandhi of course) or risking long jail sentences for the sake of ‘the cause’ (Mandela).
Second, they VOICE it.
In order to make it happen, you need to make sure you take the stage with your vision and leadership and make sure it is heard by the right people.
Apple had their amazing first commercial:
Dr. Martin Luther King had his beautiful ‘I have a dream’ speech. And you probably also remember the famous speeches by John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill.
Dr. King, Gandhi and Mandela both stood in front of their people in the streets.
Lennon touched people’s hearts through his music and Oprah was able to reach out to half the globe through her television show.
Even our bad examples were able to voice their vision really clearly. Take Hitler’s speeches for example; they did somehow struck a chord with people at that time.
And that’s the thing, if vision is really really clear, people will want to hear it and everybody will understand.
You probably know what it feels like when you hear someone speak with true passion and a clear vision. It makes you all bubbly and excited for that particular cause and it makes you want to take action. And that is exactly what is needed to make a vision happen.
Here’s another great, though fictional, speech that just exudes vision:
Third, they truly stand for what they BELIEVE.
We all know what Gandhi did. Or Mandela. Or Dr. King. They were willing to stand for their own vision and beliefs no matter the risk and the consequences.
Sure they were all killed or imprisoned (…) but the point is clear; they were willing to fight that what was not acceptable in their vision and protect it with whatever they could give.
A clear vision allows you to also clearly see that what does not fit that picture. Things like violence, or racism, or hate. And leaders are willing to fight these things for the sake of their vision – and of course, in the case of our truly great leaders, their vision is always much bigger than themselves.
How To Practically Apply This Combination Of Vision And Leadership In Your Business?
It’s clear that vision and leadership go hand in hand and it’s great to have so many great examples to get inspired from, but how does all this translate back to your own business?
Essentially, you follow the same steps as our examples do.
1. Consciously See And Express Your Vision
Simple as this sounds, it is not often done as a conscious effort. Most companies, and especially startups, have gone through the elaborate process of business modelling, strategising and planning hard goals but this does not necessary equal the vision.
Remember the definition? “Vision is the ability to see a future that is very likely beyond current knowledge or imagination. It is not necessarily tangible or measurable but you’ll know exactly when it’s there and when it’s not.”
That means it is much more than ‘have a $1M revenue within 2 years’ or ‘be the best’.
Vision is the dream you have for your company and the impact it is going to make on the people involved, the customers and perhaps even the world.
We all know the speech from Dr. Martin Luther King:
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[/quote]
Now THAT, is vision.
What does your vision look like?
If you can use some guidance in the expression of YOUR vision, leave your email address below and receive the free Vision Guide (and get some more bonus content along with it).
2. Voice Your Vision
Communicate the vision first of all with your team.
But don’t just communicate; your team needs to SHARE your vision, not just follow in your footsteps.
That is why it is important to create the vision (step 1) together with your team; a business is a joined effort and sharing the same vision will propel you forward 10 times faster than when it’s just you pushing people forward.
But voicing vision goes beyond your team; it is also what you proclaim to the world. It is the quest you’re on and the way you communicate this to your customers. Your vision should be clear for anyone coming into any type of contact with you, from your branding, marketing efforts to your products.
In today’s age we don’t necessarily need a Great March of 125.000 men and women to be heard like Dr. King did. We have many amazing new technologies to let ourselves be heard and if your vision is strong enough you’ll make sure that it is!
Fun fact: Dr. King had no idea what he was going to say up till 12 hours before the speech. The ‘I have a dream’ part was even not in the originally prepared text. Goes to show how powerful vision is when it does not come from your mind but from your heart and gut.
3. Live Your Vision
It’s great if you’ve communicated your glowing vision that is filled with positivity, high quality and the best customer service for your customers but if you don’t live up to it you’re a goner.
You’ve probably met those managers who tell you how important people and values are when they’re in front of you but stab you in the back when you turn around. Well…that’s NOT what you want.
Your vision translates directly back to the values you uphold. Not the ones just sitting there in a beautiful frame on an office wall but the ones that your customers and employees experience when they interact with you. It’s the service and quality you stand for and that you actually deliver when it comes down to it.
So if you for example promised the best customer service than you’ll have to work really hard to make that happen. That means you can’t let customers wait around for days without any notice, it means that you can’t bombard them with fine print and it means that you’ll have to put some more people on it if necessary.
This is the part where most of our ‘bad’ leaders – especially the Communist ones – go in the wrong. Mao Zedong for example was known to live rather extravagantly while his country was starving. Gandhi on the other hand starved himself for the sake of his country.
There’s of course no need to starve yourself but it might just mean that you’ll have to do a little soul searching as well:
What kind of leader do YOU want to be?
4. Stand For That What You Believe
It is all about sticking to your vision and the accompanying values and conditions and not diverting from them for the sake of, for example, easy money. Authentic leaders can not be bought.
For example, you might at some point run into an investor that is incredibly interested in your business and would love to buy it from you for a gazillion dollars. But…he wants to take the name, the company and the customer base and strip it down and sell it in several pieces leaving both the customers and employees at risk (though you will be rich).
What would you do if your business vision is (or was) to make a huge positive dent in the universe?
In your case, there’s probably no need to get killed or imprisoned like our great examples but it could mean turning down profitable offers like this. Or not accepting that client because he does not meet your conditions. Or not hiring that praised programmer because it is not a match on the level of vision and culture.
This combination of vision and leadership sometimes means standing up for that what is not acceptable to make sure that all that what is right can happen.
But it’s not easy!
It’s very likely that it will cause confrontations.
It’s also likely that not all people will like you; as it is often scary to be confronted with someone who is not afraid to stick out his neck.
Having a vision that is this crystal clear might also lead to you making decisions that sometimes seem extreme or weird to others.
But you’ll know why you’re doing it.
You’ll know that, just like your great examples, you’re being true to your business, your employees, your customers and most of all to yourself.
It’s authentic and that’s what the combination of leadership and vision is all about!
Question: how are you making YOUR vision happen?