Everyone can dream, but visionary leaders use communication and action to make their dreams a reality. Their ability to motivate an organization toward exceptional achievement seems almost superhuman from a distance. However, anyone can adopt a thoughtful process that defines the reality and moves them toward excellence.
Learn What is Possible
Visionary leaders are learning junkies. Their curiosity drives them to consume all forms of media – books, podcasts, blogs, videos, conferences, and anything else that expands their knowledge. However, they know that knowledge alone is not powerful. You must focus on the right content and increase your capacity to absorb it.
The Right Content
Our world has more information freely available and readily accessible than ever. Formal search engines, like Google, and social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, made search incredibly cheap. However, we haven’t fully adapted to appropriately filter the information.
Improve your personal algorithm to manage your attention.
Most people float through the digital world opportunistically absorbing information. Scientifically designed advertisements capture attention as users scroll through a social media newsfeed. This haphazard approach does not lead to optimal growth. There is no rhyme or reason to the search.
Visionary leaders make a conscious decision on what information is relevant to their objectives. They create virtual learning plans that encompass all the media forms with which they learn most effectively. Further, they have a hard filter on topics and techniques that pull them off track.
The ability to learn quickly is greatest skill in the information era. This goes beyond speed reading or listening to audiobooks on 1.5x speed. Knowledge only becomes powerful when you process it into useful and actionable steps.
Create habits around learning that increase your ability to retain and act on this information. A few simple principles will help:
- Read, listen, and/or watch with an open mind
- Take notes on content
- Translate notes into action steps
- Teach it to another person
Passive consumption is fine for pleasure, but an active approach yields greater results for personal and professional development. Gather a mastermind group to enhance your retention and expand the implementation ideation process.
Explore the Edges
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – Isaac Newton
Great innovations come from the convergence of status quo and novel concepts. A stable foundation that includes a robust understanding of the way it’s always been done is critical. This base allows you to identify areas of opportunity. However, a different perspective from outside the field usually drives the vision toward innovation.
Progressive cultures define success by one’s contribution to moving the field toward higher and greater reaches. Improved productivity, margins, and consequently, profits are the rewards of innovation. Visionary leaders have one foot firmly planted in the status quo. The other foot is actively tapping around other disciplines to find ideas that would improve their position.
Mountain climbers provide a terrific visualization of this. A climb starts with preparing safety equipment and looking up the rockface to find the best route to the top. This planning stage is the foundation that many learn in school or in their apprenticeship. Once on the wall, though, they set their footing with one hand and one foot, and then start exploring the rockface for the next step.
Strong intuition and faith are essential in exploring the outer edges of accepted wisdom. Visionary leaders rarely gain recognition for their early exploration. Still, the successful results that emerge become accepted as a new norm.
Set Big Goals
Jim Collins and Jerry Porras popularized the BHAG in their inspiring work, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) are objectives that seem unreasonable from the outside, but internally, the stakeholders do not believe them to be impossible.
Visionary leaders define their mission by understanding the landscape and setting goals that push the limits of accepted possibilities. They push their teams – internally and externally – through strategic and constant communications to achieve greater heights.
Google is known for encouraging their employees to seek 10x improvements in their most critical objectives. They point out that customers and colleagues do not recognize a 10% increase, but a 1,000% increase is unavoidable.
Surprisingly, it is almost easier to set a 10x goal than a 10% goal.
A 10% goal requires that you work within the accepted framework of industry norms. It forces you to work harder rather than smarter and is incredibly vulnerable to external influence.
A 10x goal is a complete revolution and departure from industry norms. Smart analysis and creative problem solving empower these goals. They still require a tremendous amount of hard work, but curiosity replaces willpower.