Every Leader Needs a Great Vision – 3 Types of Visions

For some of us, it may be a dubious hobby, a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle offers a great analogy for a vision. Specifically, the picture on the puzzle box is your vision. It is extremely difficult to complete a jigsaw puzzle without having that picture to reference, and the same is true for realizing your vision.

Before you begin organizing and assembling the small puzzle pieces that are inside the box, the picture on top very clearly reflects the final result. It shows you what you are trying to build. That is your vision – the outcome you’re striving to create.[wcm_restrict]

Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for SuccessIt is important to align your personal vision with the vision of the organization. When the vision you create and communicate to your employees shows a clear connection to the vision of the organization, your team understands the purpose of what they are doing, and how their contributions are valuable to the realization of both the team’s and the organization’s visions.

Visions should be clear, concise, and compelling. They should outline where you want to be.

If you, as the leader, do not set the tone and provide your team with a compelling positive vision, people will end up defaulting into one of two other vision types: status quo visions and negative visions.

Positive Visions

Leaders who communicate a positive vision believe that today is great and tomorrow will be even better. They believe that problems are opportunities and that people are capable of achieving the impossible. Leaders with positive visions truly believe in, and are committed to, the possibilities.

Only real, inspirational visions have the power to raise morale to an even higher level. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, demonstrated the impact of a powerful vision during an employee memorial service for Steve Jobs. In a time of great uncertainty and enormous expectations, he stood up and told all the gathered employees, “Our best days are ahead of us.” It was both an incredibly difficult and powerful message to deliver, considering the circumstances.

Status Quo Visions

We once interviewed a manager who was the perfect embodiment of a status quo vision. He was working for the federal government and only a couple of years away from retirement. He told us “I just want to hang on and do what I have to do for two more years.” He was reporting to a new boss, and he was unhappy with the disruption of his status quo vision. “I just want to tell this new guy, ‘Look, my old boss left me alone and didn’t bug me or ask me to change the way I do things. This suited me just fine, and we got along without any issues. Please don’t ask me to change what I’ve been doing when I’m two years away from being done.’”

His status quo vision is all too common among people who do not care very much about their jobs or the people they work with. They show up, do the minimum amount of work it takes to be largely left alone, and collect their paycheck.

The challenge with status quo visionaries is that they do not allow for forward movement; you essentially stand still. When your customers and competitors keep raising the bar and turning their strategic visions into action, you and your organization are no longer just standing still, you are effectively moving backwards.

Negative Visions

These people hate everything and almost everyone. They hate their job, their boss, their desk, their customers, and they make sure to let everyone around them know. They look at you and say “You think today is bad? Just wait! It’s going to get worse.” For them, it does. They truly believe tomorrow is going to be worse than today.

The biggest problem with these negative visionaries is that they stick with you and your organization for a lifetime. You might wonder “Why? If they don’t like me, they don’t like the boss, and they don’t like our company, why don’t they just leave?”

There are two very good reasons why these people won’t leave.

1. They have zero options. Anyone who has had to work with them and their negativity certainly will not bring them along when they take a job elsewhere nor can they recommend them to someone else.

2. As miserable as they may be currently, their vision of a change is even more dire. They truly believe that their next boss, department, or company could be worse than this one. They know the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, they anticipate the grass will probably grow higher and require more mowing. Why would they leave their current situation for one with the potential of more work and higher performance standards? Negative people also know that a new boss will not put up with their negative vision, attitude, and behaviors.

As much as you wish the negative people would just leave, they fully intend to stay with your organization, spreading their ill will and discontent as far as they can.

Negative managers are some of the greatest visionaries of all time. Their visions are self-perpetuating because they expect poor outcomes. They are committed to their negative vision and often, either deliberately or subconsciously, take actions that turn their vision into reality.

If the vision is so important, why don’t more leaders create one? We hear many excuses, but these are the ones we hear most often:

  • I don’t have time; I’m too busy getting the job done.
  • It’s my manager’s job to tell me what the vision is.
  • No one ever pays attention to a vision after it’s created.
  • It doesn’t matter what we suggest or come up with, senior leaders won’t support it anyway.


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About the Authors

Peter B. Stark and Mary C. KellyExecutive leadership development and corporate training coaches, Peter B. Stark and Mary C. Kelly (Commander, US Navy Ret.) are co-authors of the new book, Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for Success. Peter is the President of Peter Barron Stark Companies. Mary is the President of Productive Leaders.

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