Look at nearly any list of essential qualities for a leader, and you'll find what I've dubbed the "most misunderstood quality of leadership." Which quality do you think I'm reffering to?
I'll spare you the Google search... I asked ChatGPT to name me the top qualities of a great leader, and sure enough the most misunderstood quality is on there. Take a peek at the list below - which one do you think I'm talking about?
Notice number 5? Yep, vision and strategic thinking. Now what's interesting to me, and something I've discovered over the years of working with many leaders, is there are lots of leaders who don't have a vision at all. They neither function from one, nor do they know how to have one.
And yet, having a vision is an essential element of leadership. Why? Because the very point of leadership is taking those you lead to a new destination reflecting different (and hopefully much better!) outcomes.
How to have a vision
In order to have a vision, you have to first be able to "see" where you're going. To see, you have to imagine. And as true leaders, we have to see different to get different.
Imagination is the gateway to new possibilities. It opens up the portal of potential and so makes it one of the coolest, most exciting aspects of our existence as human beings. Imagination gives us the power to bring into existence something never before seen or experienced. That is just amazing!
Yet sadly, imagination is so frequently taken for granted even in its most simplest form. For example, one simple element of process improvement occurs when someone "sees" something different, even if it's just a minor tweak. This was my "ah ha" moment many years ago when I started conducting my Creative & Innovative Thinking workshops.
Creating a vision is activating the imagination for the purpose of seeing (envisioning) a new, different, improved state. Without it, you are existing and managing the status quo... and that's not really leading.
Without vision, we live an illusion of leading... We are merely swimming in the status quo. So, creative thinking should be on the essentials list. In fact, the IBM Leadership Values Institute several years ago deemed this the most essential quality for the future.
For a while, this very subject (Creative & Innovative Thinking) was the topic of my most requested keynote. And for some clients, this topic remains a mainstay in their employee development offerings. It's also what prompted me to write the creative thinking handbook Brain On Fire - How to Unleash Your Creative Superpowers (get a link to it down below).
In short, vision is one of the most overused and underused elements of leadership... Overused as a stated requirement, and underused in reality.
My theme for this year has been the concept of "refresh." Now you know - it's not just a nice thing to do, but essential for real leadership... leadership that truly makes a difference.
To Your Success!