You Don’t Have to Be CEO to Be a Visionary Leader  

17 May 2019:

Creating a unifying vision for an organization is a fundamental skill for leaders. A simple, bold, inspirational vision can feel almost magical: it brings people throughout the company together around a common goal and provides a focal point for developing strategies to achieve a better future. Unfortunately, however, building a vision has become more associated with a company’s top-level leadership than the managers in the rest of the organization. How often have you heard something like: “leaders set aspirational direction, while managers simply ensure that day-to-day operations follow accordingly”?

Even as a manager (and aspiring leader), however, you have a number of opportunities to get hands-on experience in shaping vision. In our research for the HBR Leader’s Handbook, we identified three critical vision-creation opportunities that you can grasp, even if you are not the CEO: contributing to senior leaders’ vision work, translating the company’s vision for your team, and developing a new front-line team vision that can be cascaded up through the company. Each of these can propel your professional development, leading to bigger responsibilities over time. We’ll look at these more closely before closing with practical advice about how you can make the most of these opportunities.

Helping the CEO Shape the Company’s Vision

Crafting a vision requires a certain element of seeing into the future. But good senior leaders know they are missing critical information: they are far removed from customer experiences, operational realities, and the hopes and dreams of people working for them. Tapping the insights and experiences of others who will be touched by the work can help senior executives achieve that sense of connection, and many institutionalize the gathering of these kinds of ideas: witness, for example, Sam Palmisano’s idea jam at IBM in 2003 in which he engaged thousands of employees and other stakeholders; or the Global Service Jam process that many city leaders have used over the past few years to engage their citizens in identifying opportunities for ambitious community improvements. Raise your hand to volunteer your own perspective in this kind of collective problem-solving, and not only will you begin developing your vision-creation abilities, but you’ll also learn from others who are working through some of the same problems that you are.

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Source: Harvard Business Review

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