Why Vision is a Leader’s Most Important Skill (2/2)

In the first part, I mentioned how vision is like the glue that brings business together. This metaphor will help you understand why having a concrete vision is important.

Creating a great business is hard. Bringing together a great team, identifying markets, solving customer problems and fending off competition. These are just a few things you have to deal with. And without a concrete vision about why your company exists and what you believe in, excelling in these areas is much harder.

Your ability to harmonize the various aspects of business through a strong vision is key.

To illustrate why, let’s take a look at a charismatic visionary: Elon Musk.

 

An example of a strong vision

 

Source: CBInsights

 

Musk is one of the founders of PayPal. He went on to found SpaceX and Tesla Motors, which he both actively runs. He is also the founder of Open AI, the Boring Company and various smaller ventures. Some even describe him as ‘Ironman’, in reference to the superhero who shares the same inventiveness and desire to take on the world.

But what is it that distinguishes Musk from other entrepreneurs? He’s smart, but there are thousands of smart entrepreneurs who aren’t as successful.

What sets him apart is his otherworldly vision for the future.

And I mean that literally – SpaceX’s vision is to make humanity a multi-planetary species. Likewise, Tesla Motors vision statement is to drive the transition to sustainable vehicles.

 

Source: Market Watch

 

Through this strong sense of purpose, Musk is able to do what others aren’t. He is able to thrive despite the many setbacks he’s faced. Here’s how Musk’s vision impacts his business:

  • Building a team – Musk’s compelling vision appeals to the talented and idealistic. The best people aren’t just looking for a job, they’re looking to change the world. Through working with Musk, they’re able to do so.
  • Overcoming adversity  – Musk has overcome a huge amount of adversity. First, he struggled to get funding for his ideas. He faces negative PR, funded from incumbents in the car industry. And all the time, has to overcome difficult technical challenges. Yet at every stage, he has managed to succeed – something only possible with a strong purpose.
  • Penetrating the market Tesla is making waves in the centuries old automobile industry. It’s an industry with high barriers to entry, powerful lobbies and red tape that keeps upstarts at bay. In Q2 2018, Tesla shipped 40,740 vehicles. Considering his cars range in price from $55,000 to $100,000, Tesla is doing very well.
  • Spotting opportunitiesHow many entrepreneurs can go toe to toe with the American, Chinese and Russian governments? Musk’s SpaceX brought spaceflight into the private domain. Where other entrepreneurs shied away, he had the vision to seize the opportunity.

 

Creating a compelling vision

 

You should now have a greater understanding of the importance of having a vision.

Now it’s time to turn inwards.

Start thinking about your current situation. Do you even have a vision? Or is it just a vague idea about what you do and how you do it?

Worse, are you on autopilot with no clear sight of where your organization is going?

 

Making it concrete

 

You probably have some idea of where you are taking your business. But having a vague idea of your purpose isn’t going to give you the effect that you need.

A fuzzy vision won’t remind your people about why they come into work everyday. It isn’t going to give them the fuel they need to do their best work.

Likewise, if your customers don’t get a sense of what you represent then you are missing out on a key competitive edge. Do you want your customers to think about you based on what your product does? Or would you rather they align with your brand as an expression of their values?

A study by researchers at the University of Bangkok and Macquaire University found that there were 7 aspects of a powerful vision. They were:

  • Conciseness
  • Clarity
  • Future orientation
  • Stability
  • Challenge
  • Abstractness
  • Ability to inspire

 

These factors play an important role in the message that you are trying to communicate. But it’s also important to look at the factors that inform your vision in the first place.

In other words, how do you find your why?

There are four steps that will help you construct your why.

 

1. Identify problems

Think about what problems your company is solving. Think about the implications of these problems and the effects if left unsolved.

For instance, let’s say you are a manufacturing company that produces parts for wheelchairs. The problem you are solving is that you are helping people to be more mobile. If left unsolved, people’s life quality will suffer.

 

2. See past it

Next, it’s important to go beyond what you are currently solving.

You need to be able to see the forest from the trees.

In other words, you can’t just be fixated on your specific problem. You have to be thinking about the future and adjacent problems that you aren’t solving. You have to visualize how your organization can tackle the whole industry, both now and in the future.

In the example of the wheelchair manufacturing company, you could have a broader vision to give people lifelong access to great mobility. This would extend their focus past just wheelchair parts and more into the domain of personal transport. The emphasis of ‘great mobility’ could mean developing ways of enhancing general mobility – even for people without disabilities. This could mean inventing a completely new method of personal transport – something akin to a Segway.

 

3. Define values

Then you have to start thinking about what your company represents. What are the ideas, beliefs, and values that guide you as you go about solving these problems?

Think beyond profit. Do you represent honesty? Fairness? Changing the status quo? These are the values that give work meaning beyond simply earning a living.

With the example above, the company could embody values of freedom, equality of access and respect regardless of physical ability.

 

4. Create a story with meaning

Finally, you want to bring it all together to create a story that has meaning. You now exist to represent a mission. Your organization is embarking on a new journey.

We are Mobility Manufacturers Inc. Our company represents freedom, equality of access and respect for all. The reason we exist is that everyone should have the ability to easily and efficiently move around our shared planet. We started 5 years ago when we personally experienced the difficulties and lack of access that disabled people have to deal with.

 

 

Next steps

 

One final aspect of developing a vision lies within yourself as a leader.

You may have a compelling vision, but you need to embody and represent it. The vision has to be communicated through you. And for it to resonate, it has to be congruent with who you are.

With our vision workshops, we help you formulate your corporate vision. And mostly importantly, become a charismatic visionary yourself.

If you feel lacking in regards to the strength of your vision, reach out to us today.