A sustained compelling vision

Leaders must sustain a compelling vision

Let’s begin with why a leader having a vision matters.

The Harvard Business Review did some research which asked two key questions:

Interestingly the key differentiation between expectations of colleagues and those of leader was:

A leader is expected to be forward-looking.  

Just 27% of respondents selected it as something they want in a colleague, whereas 72% wanted it in a leader. No other quality showed such a dramatic difference between leader and colleague.

Having a vision of the future is a critical element of being a great leader

But it’s not enough to simply have a vision.  The vision must also be one that inspires others to follow.

Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action suggests that visions that inspire are those that are built upon explaining why – why the vision matters to the individual followers. 

It’s not enough to have a vision that matters to the leader.  It has to matter to the followers to.

He suggests that most people, when asked, can answer what they do, and many can answer how they do it.  However he suggests that 

People are most committed to a vision when they can explain Why the vision matters.

To quote: “Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.

People are inspired to follow when they know why the vision is important to them and their world

And finally, Seth Godin, in his seminal book Tribes turns it around the other way.  He suggests “The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”

But he goes further and also suggests that

Great leaders stick with the vision for a long time

If, as a leader, you stick with the vision long enough, sceptics realise that you’re going to get there one way or another…so they follow.