Leadership Quality #21: Vision – You can Seize only what you can see

The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.
John Sculley (Former CEO of Pepsi and Apple Computer)

Vision is everything for a leader. It is utterly indispensable. Why? Because vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws him/her forward. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow the leader. Show me a leader without vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere. At best, he or she is traveling in circles.

To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be a part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:

  1. Vision starts within – Someone else cannot give you a vision for your business. You cannot buy, beg or borrow vision. It has to come from the inside. Walt Disney was renowned for his vision. For Disney, vision was never a problem. His creativity and desire for excellence meant he always saw what could be. If you lack vision, look inside yourself. Draw on your natural gifts and desires. Look to your calling if you have one. If you still don’t sense a vision of your own, then consider hooking up with a leader who’s vision resonates with you, then become their partner. That’s what Walt Disney’s brother Roy did. He was a good businessman and leader who could make things happen. Together they made an incredible team.
  2. Vision draws on your history – Vision isn’t some mystical quality that comes out of a vacuum. It grows from a leader’s past and the history of the people around them. Talk to any leader, and you’re likely to discover key events in his/her past that were instrumental in the creation of his or her vision.
  3. Vision meets others’ needs – True vision is far-reaching. It goes beyond what one individual can accomplish. And if it has real value, it does more than just include others, it adds value to them. If you have a vision that doesn’t serve others, it’s probably too small.
  4. Vision helps you gather resources – One of the most valuable benefits of vision is that it acts as a magnet – attracting, challenging and uniting people. It also rallies finances and other resources. The greater the vision, the more challenging the vision, the harder the participants fight to achieve it. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, advised, “The first thing you do is teach the person to feel that the vision is very important and nearly impossible. That draws out the drive in winners.”


Where does vision come from? To find the vision that is indispensable to leadership, you have to become a good listener. You must listen to several voices.

  1. The Inner Voice – vision starts within. Do you know your life’s mission? What stirs your heart? What do you dream about? If what you’re pursuing in life doesn’t come from a desire within – from the very depths of who you are and what you believe – you will not be able to accomplish it.
  2. The Unhappy Voice – where does inspiration for great ideas come from? From noticing what doesn’t work. Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision. Are you on complacent cruise control? Or do you find yourself itching to change your world? No great leader in history has fought to prevent change.
  3. The Successful Voice – nobody can accomplish great things alone. To fulfil a big vision, you need a good team. However, you also need good advice from someone who is ahead of you on the leadership journey. If you want to lead others to greatness, find a mentor. Do you have a Coach who can help you sharpen your vision?
  4. The Higher Voice – although it’s true your vision must come from within, you shouldn’t let it be confined by your limited capabilities. A truly valuable vision includes a connection to higher power, however, that is expressed for you personally. Have you looked beyond yourself, even beyond your own lifetime, as you’ve sought your vision? If not, you may be missing your true potential and life’s best for you.

To improve your vision, do the following:

  • Measure yourself – If you have previously thought about a vision for your life and articulated it, measure how well you are carrying it out. Talk to several key people such as your spouse, a close friend and key employees asking them what they think your vision is. If they can articulate it, then you are probably living it.
  • Write it down – If you’ve thought about your vision but never put it in writing, take time to do it today. Writing clarifies your thinking. Once you’ve written it, evaluate whether it’s worthy of your life’s best. And then pursue it with all you’ve got.
  • Picture it – Just as with writing it down, creating a vision board, with images and pictures representing your vision is a powerful visualisation tool to support your mission.
  • Do a gut check – If you haven’t done a lot of work on vision, spend the next several weeks or months thinking about it. Consider what really impacts you at a gut level:
    • What makes you cry?
    • What makes you dream?
    • What gives you energy?

Also think about what you’d like to see change in the world around you. What do you see that isn’t, but could be? Once your ideas start to become clearer, write them down and talk to a mentor or coach about them.

Whilst this example isn’t necessarily a healthy one, it is a powerful vision. From 1923 to 1955, Robert Woodruff served as president of Coca-Cola. During this time, he wanted Coca-Cola to be available to every American serviceman around the world for 5cents, no matter what it cost the company. What a bold goal. However, it was nothing compared to the bigger picture he could see in his mind’s eye. In his lifetime, he wanted every person in the world to have tasted Coca-Cola.

When you look deep into your heart and soul for a vision, what do you see?

A great leader’s courage to fulfil his vision comes from passion, not position.

Thank you for the privilege of your time and attention over this series of 21 qualities. I have loved and appreciated the contact with those of you who wrote to me with comments, sharing and connection. Please do stay in touch via LinkedIn or my Facebook page, or email. Thank you for the opportunity to fulfil my vision of expanded leadership at every level.

The final part of our 21 part Leadership Series: Leadership is an Inside Job, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader


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