To be successful a leader must develop a forward-looking vision, something he or she can communicate effectively to teams and partners that motivates them to participate in a future. (This is something Jon Mertz hammers on in his recent blog. He discusses why a leader needs aspirational vision).[i] I got to thinking of other aspects of a leader’s vision.
Returns take time. Actualizing a vision often takes many, many years. It takes time to create a team, raise funds, build a service or product, and gain market traction. Do not be cavalier about a return on investment, yet understand your vision might take many years to manifest with rewards coming much later.
Stick to your guns. Standby the core principles of your vision. You might have to change course and adapt to other perspectives regarding some of them. However, conviction is a requirement in fending off competitors and naysayers. Personally, I enjoy being challenged; some of my best work comes when I respond to a challenge or capitalize on a missed opportunity by a competitor.
Buttress your vision. It takes additional time to obtain auxiliary support mechanisms like a patent or book, but it is worth the investment for two reasons. First, it establishes credibility. You may have critics who are smarter, more ambitious than you, so winning them over requires proof. Second, it provides some protection. People listening to your vision might think they can do better and try to.
Every idea and concept matters in communicating your vision. Let’s say you communicate your vision in 400 words. Obviously, every single word serves a purpose. Moreover, as you share your vision, teach it so your influencers can say it back to you verbatim. (Perhaps even make this a requirement with your inner circle.) If someone misses a single point of the vision, its value can be seriously diminished and reflect poorly on you.
Always voice your vision. In a presentation, convince your management team to back the core themes of your vision. In an email, motivate a project manager overseeing a team of core developers building your service. In an executive summary, compel investors to fund the implementation of your service. Having a vision is respectable and contagious so don’t be afraid in spreading the word.
Rally the troops behind the vision. Work to get consensus with your key influencers, so be willing to tweak or modify your initial vision based on their ideas. Be ready for squabbles. Ultimately, it is powerful having a team in synch with your vision where they speak, teach, and breathe it.
Details matter during implementation. Delivering on your vision is critical for success. Steve Jobs comes to mind. He sat in as programmers were developing his visionary products. Every little, minute feature makes a difference. Arguably, this might be the most important responsibility for a leader. Once you lose a first to market competitive advantage (if you have it), the implementation makes or breaks you.
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