Given the rapid progression of our known business world, and the ever-growing unknown developing, it would make complete sense to also recruit and nurture those for a new type of leadership vision. Let me use a maritime analogy:

Picture an imaginary circle that stretches all around your company. This circle represents the edge of your known business world.

  • You know most of the products and services being offered
  • You have a fairly good idea who your competitors are
  • Your finger is on the pulse of what the competitors are up to, and
  • You have your eye on a number of trends that may influence your company.

Now imagine what the other side of the imaginary circle looks like, as this represents the unknown world:

  • It is a world of violent storms from major trends such as:
    • digital disruption,
    • reworked multinational trade agreements such as NAFTA and CETA,
    • globalization, and
    • industry consolidations.
  • On the other side of this imaginary circle, whole new ways of doing business are being developed. Completely new role-players are being formed globally.  And through the power of the internet they are able to come overpower parts of your business right at your doorstep.

Which of these two sides of the circle will impact your business most? The fact is, you cannot deal with things that you do not yet know about. So, I want to help you as leaders to expand the circle of what you do know and understand.

Focus on Visionary Leadership

I do not believe that Visionary Leaders have an enhanced ability to read tea leaves and predict the future. I do think though that they have some unique focus areas that help them succeed :

  1. They are actively looking over the horizon to where new trends are shaping up. They are looking to understand how things are evolving. Not necessarily predict what will happen, as that would require mostly blind luck. No, they are looking for how the whole model of how business is done and is evolving. They are looking for how new links are formed between moving parts- such as access to markets, access to capital, and the impact of the digital revolution.
  2. They are always asking themselves how the understanding of the future should impact what their teams are doing now. Because let’s face it, everyone can’t spend time away from the home base looking at how things are evolving long-term. Results are needed now.
  3. Visionary Leaders walk outside of the boundaries of existing know-how. They believe that even though some timelines may look far off, some parts of their business may be impacted in the future, but leave little time to react.
  4. They make it their business to have their company always preparing for change. These leaders feel bold enough to try and fail, and to stretch into worlds of uncertainty. At the end of the day, even if all of that does not work out, they see it as great learning opportunities for their teams.

Leadership Vision Means Looking at the Compass

I heard Seth Godin refer to an interesting concept on a podcast he did with Tim Ferriss. He said that people need to look for a compass and not a map. A good Visionary Leader will make it their business to have everyone in their company understand exactly what course they need to follow on the compass. As a result, they should not focus so much on where they are on the map. While you may be on the right place on the map, you could be standing still.

I would rather see Visionary Leaders standing slightly off the perfect path but dialed right in to the right direction, heading straight for their purpose. Looking at a map requires leaders to look down. Looking at their purpose forces leaders to look up.

Good luck out there. And remember, always choose understanding over prediction.