Vision as a story full of values

Leadership studies are full of leaders with vision and we often seek to be ‘visionary’. But what does that mean?

Josie has been studying vision and leadership for the last 15 years and she has found some significant problems with visionary leadership as we have come to understand it.

‘Hero leader’ or ‘great man’ with a vision

First and foremost, the idea of a leader with a vision that they have to sell to others is an old idea that is passed its use by date.

The idea of the solitary leader who single handedly makes a difference is not really true. It comes from the leadership studies undertaken post World War 2, combined with a conflation (mixing up) with the idea of authority in managerial roles. Post WW2, many male business leaders were researched after they performed great business turnarounds. Researchers were trying to find the secret sauce these leaders had by way of behaviours and personality traits, so that other leaders could do exactly the same and get similarly wonderful results. This has become known as the ‘great man’ literature or hero leadership concept.

The trouble with this idea is that:

  • No one ever does anything alone – all these great men were a part of teams that supported them in various ways, it’s just that none researched them too.
  • Even if a person could achieve something alone, you can’t copy who they are. You are you with your unique combination of strengths and abilities.

(As an aside, they were great men – it was post WW2 of course. We are not being sexist or factitious.)

Secondly, the world – the context in which leaders are trying to influence people, is so much more complex now. We mean that in a very specific way. Complex, means that we appreciate and act on the inter-relationships between different elements or parts within a system. It’s a different type of leadership that is required in a complex system like we live in today. No one person can know the answers anymore. We need to engage everyone in understanding the challenge and in finding solutions. It’s a much more facilitative type of leadership that is required. And that’s the type of leadership we are engaging with you about. You can read one of Josie’s earliest publications in this sphere if you are interested.

What’s this all got to do with vision?

We are going to work with you to develop your vision for your own leadership, your part of the Maxima business and your team. However, it would not be helpful if you thought you could impose your vision on other people – you cant! People, your senior managers, peers and people who work with and for you, are motivated by lots of things; but being told what to do is rarely one of the big motivating forces in people’s lives!

So you will need to talk your vision through with them and maybe even adapt it as a result of those conversations.

The type of vision we will guide you to create is :

  • a story rather than a pithy one sentence
  • shared through co-creation rather than told
  • full of values rather than concrete goals.

Values are important

Values motivate us and are also the reason we make many decisions in our lives. These values are closely associated with the way we see the world and how we think it works too. It turns out that reprioritising values is also at the heart of change. A vision that reflects values should inspire you when you are down, help you decide what to do in times of uncertainty and be flexible enough to adapt as you learn more about bringing your vision into reality.

The vision, full of values, is your big WHY.