As humans, we spend a lot of time looking forward, to both determine our direction so we know what’s to come and build excitement for future experiences. And as leaders, it’s one of the most important things we bring to our team. After all, leadership without vision is just management.
When coaching leaders and teams through vision, we’ll ask them to talk about and describe what they see for the future—specifically what it means to them and their people. Typically, their responses fall into three broad categories, each tied to a different mathematical property. And by better understanding each of them, you can better calculate the impact of your vision—and know if a change to the equation is needed.
This often shows up as protecting the status quo. The leader likes things the way they are and will fight to keep them the same. It’s almost like they build a fence around what they have and then defend it.
While this strategy can appear to work in the short-term, it comes with hefty long-term challenges and consequences. As the world continues to shift, grow and evolve around us (especially as VUCA becomes the norm), it’s impossible to keep things the same.
So as leaders look to maintain—in reality, they are probably losing ground as sparks of innovation are replaced by seasons of complacency. This can have a negative effect on both engagement and motivation. Very few people get excited about following a leader whose vision of the future is keeping things the same.
Here we see leaders making small adjustments and advancements, usually to take advantage of a new opportunity or as a response to a recent loss (a subtraction). While these leaders are generally moving forward, the momentum is usually more reactive than proactive.
With this mindset, growth can be a bit uneven. High ebbs and flows are often driven by external circumstances that can feel like a constant dance—two steps forward, one step back. Without a clear and compelling vision driving the team forward, identifying the right strategies and making great decisions can be challenging in the best of times, but nearly impossible in times of change and uncertainty.
This type of environment can place added stress and pressure on your people, making it more difficult for them to think and perform well. Without a clear sense of long-term vision and direction, it’s difficult for people to truly engage and do their best work—let alone envision how they will stretch and grow with your team or company.
Leaders with this mindset share a common belief: the best is yet to come. They feel the burden to create and share a compelling vision of the future that engages both the heads and hearts of their people—one that challenges both them and their teams to sacrifice and stretch to make it a reality. Rather than settling for simple addition, they see vision as an accelerant that helps them find new ways to multiply their efforts and impact.
Not only does it inspire people, but their vision also serves as the foundation for their culture and strategy as it is integrated through everything they do (e.g., hiring, firing, meetings, structure, communication, recognition). For these leaders, it’s not about adding slowly here and there—it’s about prioritizing growth and development to better live out their purpose. They don’t simply react to what’s happening around them but instead look for new ideas and strategies to make their picture of the future a reality.
And as they communicate and share it with reckless frequency, it serves as a magnet to pull like-minded people together and galvanize them around something meaningful. With this type of direction and purpose, leaders can build dynamic cultures where people truly feel connected and committed—which are the keys to driving innovation and delivering extraordinary results.
Like any mindset, these beliefs are not static but rather shift as we move through seasons, providing us lift in some and limiting us in others. And when it comes to leadership, your beliefs around vision are directly tied to your long-term success and sense of purpose and fulfillment.
But too often those beliefs run on autopilot in the background, going unnoticed unless you create the space, time and structure to pull back and reflect on your current thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
So, in the days ahead I would encourage you to step back and assess what you’ve been believing about yourself, your people and the future you’re creating together. If there’s an opportunity to shift your beliefs, then do the math—how could changing the equation have the greatest impact on you, your team and those you serve?
Take your leadership to the next level, improve on your mindset, and become the leader you’ve always wanted to be. Our coaches are ready to help—schedule a time to learn how you can achieve your leadership goals through one-on-one coaching.