How to build your leadership vision
“Create a vision and never let the environment, other people’s beliefs or the limits of what has been done in the past shape your decisions.” – Tony Robbins
Think of the world’s most famous leaders: Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Warren Buffet. Indra Nooyi. Sheryl Sandberg. They’re not known for their day-to-day management of minutiae, and they won’t be remembered for their fortunes or their memoirs. We know these names because they have strong leadership vision – and it propelled them to the highest peaks of success.
Leadership and vision aren’t just partners – they’re one and the same. Leading without vision is like driving a car blindfolded: You just wouldn’t do it. You cannot lead the way without seeing where you’re going. But what is vision in leadership? And how can you develop it?
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What is vision in leadership?
Vision is one of the core leadership values. It’s the dream and the direction for your company. It’s what forms your company culture, guides your decisions and helps you set – and crush – your goals. It’s what inspires others to follow you, work hard and make a difference. Leadership vision is what makes a company worth working for.
No great leader ever accomplished anything without having a powerful vision, but that isn’t all you’ll need. You must not only get crystal-clear on your leadership vision. You must also be able to communicate it to others effectively and get them excited about it.
How to create your leadership vision
Creating a mission statement and a vision statement are basic fundamentals every business person learns in school or on the job. So why do some leadership visions take such powerful hold while others seem to fade away?
Leadership vision is about more than written statements and rules of conduct. The most inspiring leaders are fueled by their purpose and passion, and their vision affects every decision they make and action they take. They don’t just have a vision – they are their vision.
Leadership and vision both come from within. To determine your vision, you must get in touch with your inner purpose – your ultimate reason for doing what you do every day. This type of self-awareness is an active skill that requires time and effort, but is well worth it. You’ll come away with a certainty and belief in yourself that you never thought possible.
Practicing mindfulness can deepen your self-reflection and allow you to gain new insights that contribute to your leadership vision. Practices like meditation and priming can also reduce stress, promote productivity and help you stay focused on your outcomes. Unrivaled focus is a trait of many top leaders and a necessary part of living your leadership vision.
The best leadership vision examples are always optimistic, forward-looking and illuminating. No one wants to work toward a future that’s fixated on problems or filled with challenges. Tony says, “Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions.” Great leaders embody this ideal, reframing problems in a positive way, focusing on solutions and imagining possibilities.
A future that’s unclear is just as uninspiring as a future that’s dark. Outstanding leadership vision examples are clear and concise. They answer a big question – “Why?” – in a way that’s easy to understand. Today’s employees seek meaningful work that will help them find fulfillment and feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Leadership vision that does that will make them want to stick around.
What is vision in leadership if you’re not able to communicate it effectively? Once you have an honest, positive and concise leadership vision, tell the world! Never assume that your employees already “know” your vision if you haven’t told them specifically. Put your vision statement everywhere. When announcing decisions or accomplishments, always relate them back to your vision. Leadership communication is just as vital as vision.
“Rewards come in action, not in discussion,” as Tony says. You communicate your leadership and vision not only through your words but also through your actions. When your vision is strong, you’ll have the confidence you need to make tough decisions, set and achieve lofty goals and take massive, determined action in every aspect of the business.
Leadership vision examples
Sometimes you need to learn from the best. Here are three examples that perfectly sum up the power of leadership and vision.
TerraCycle was started by 20-year-old Tom Szaky in 2001 with a concise and powerful leadership vision: “Eliminating the idea of waste.” Tom dropped out of Princeton to bottle worm poop as fertilizer. Everyone probably thought he was crazy, but he had a vision. Today, TerraCycle is a multi-million dollar company that sets up programs for hard-to-recycle materials all over the globe. To this day, the original vision statement is found in the signature of every employee email.
Everyone knows Amazon – and that’s largely in part due to its legendary founder, Jeff Bezos. His leadership vision was short and clear: Be the store for everything, A-Z. His leadership style is as bold as his vision. He takes big risks and thinks outside the box. He lives by the motto “The one thing I might regret is not trying.” Whether you agree with his style or not, one thing is undeniable: Bezos certainly knows the answer to the question “What is vision in leadership?”
For a leadership vision example from a company in crisis, look no further than JetBlue’s breakdown in 2007. In five days, the airline canceled more than a thousand flights due to a severe ice storm on the East Coast. For a company with a vision statement “to inspire humanity, both in the air and on the ground,” it didn’t look good. But CEO David Neeleman tackled the backlash head-on. He publicly apologized, compensated passengers and never once blamed the weather. He lived his leadership vision with honesty and integrity and allowed JetBlue to bounce back.