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Home » Blog » What Is Visionary Leadership? 8 Traits of a Visionary Leader

According to a popular story, once upon a time, the former president John F. Kennedy was travelling to the NASA headquarters. John F. Kennedy made his first trip to the NASA headquarters in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was cleaning the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. “I’m helping to put a man on the moon,” the janitor replied.

The janitor got it. He was aware of NASA’s goals and how he fits into them. He had a purpose. The janitor understood the reason for doing his job, something that most of us find difficult. He maintained the building’s cleanliness so that the astronauts, scientists, and engineers could concentrate on their quest to put a “man on the moon.” 

Can you imagine, a janitor taking the responsibility of sending the man to the moon? And not only that but he is quite determined that his actions are actually going to contribute to that purpose, and he did it. Oh my god!

Isn’t that amazing? He recognised how his input suited the company. He linked his goals to their vision and achieved what he wanted. 

This is what vision does. It enables people to clarify and realise what they genuinely want. It helps them create their idealised versions of reality and then creates a link between the real world and the ideal world (Kiefer and Stroh, 1984). In a company’s context, it gives an organization’s existence and everyone inside of it meaning and purpose. The “Old DNA” that has shaped and determined the prior ways of acting can be recorded by a new vision and values. This is what a leader does. Let’s see how visionary leaders lead their organisation to redirect the “Old DNA” into a new one.

What Is Visionary Leadership?

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

-Warren Bennis

We have all experienced a considerable need to “improve the world” or “change it” at some point in our lives. How many times have you stood up and said, “I’m going to change this” or “It’s done now, we can’t keep doing this forever.” 

But where does this desire to “change the world” evolve from? This desire typically emerges from a vision of how our lives or the world can be enhanced or improved. 

Such glimpses into the future frequently offer direction and advice in both our personal and professional lives, which helps us find the drive for change. In fact, I think this is how revolutions have taken place, someone thought that it’s done now and then they decided to spark their vision into action. And this is what visionary leadership is.

To put it into simple words, a visionary leader is a leader with a vision. Visionary leadership is a leader who envisions the future of the world and then takes action to bring it about. They don’t just sit around and wait for things to happen rather they make things happen.

They understand that revolutions begin with ideas rather than wasting time pushing statistics. They understand that ideas only work to the extent that they are successfully executed, thus they don’t expect ideas to implement themselves. 

They take the initiative rather than waiting their turn. They offer solutions rather than spending time criticising or rationalising. Instead of waiting for someone else to step up inside the organisation, they take the initiative, they volunteer. They locate the door and kick it open rather than waiting for an opportunity to knock.

They don’t seize THE moment; they seize EVERY moment. 

Understanding Visionary Leaders

Leaders that are future-focused and have the ability to effectively perceive, feel, and communicate an organization’s vision are said to possess visionary leadership. The visionary leader is able to picture and describe the ideal enterprise to all stakeholders. Visionary leadership is imaginative, but realistic, and is characterised by innovation matched with pragmatism. Leaders with vision possess boldness, candor, a drive for greatness, and a moral dedication to the education of their followers. The capacity to clearly outline and pursue a desired educational future while also putting the needs of the client first and including stakeholders in the vision is possessed by visionary leaders. Finally, transformative leadership results in measurable outcomes. This description of visionary leadership is based on studies by Schwan and Spady (1998).

Another definition drawn from the work of Wallace and Engle (1997) ensures 

that there should be an open dialogue and that all stakeholders have a clear and common 

understanding of the vision. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on achieving consensus 

on common values and the creation of a vision statement to which all stakeholders can subscribe. 

Visionary leaders have ruled the world with their vision. Think of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, George Washington, or Mahatma Gandhi. All these men have something in common, they had a unique vision and set out to achieve it—and they did. You could believe that visionary leadership is rare and most definitely not a quality that the typical individual possesses. However, visionary leadership is not required to bring about a revolution. You may already have visionary leadership and not even know it.

The best thing is that without even taking up a leadership position, you can still be a visionary. For example, become an ideal person. Additionally, you can motivate others to follow a particular course of action without having a clear picture of the change you want to see in the world. But what skills do you need to be a visionary leader? Let’s see…

8 Traits of A Visionary Leader

Visionary leadership means that the leader understands the key elements of a vision—what must be included in a vision if it is to direct the organization into the future. What I am trying to imply here is that a leader knows how to lead his organisation, but what differentiates a visionary from a leader is his capacity to communicate his or her vision for the organization in ways that are compelling and that make people want to buy into the leader’s vision and help make it happen (Nanus, 1992; Sashkin, 2000).

Leaders with vision know exactly what they aim to achieve. The organization’s goals are stated in the vision, which serves as guidance (Nanus, 1992). To establish a shared vision of the future, leaders must have a clear understanding of where they are going, the confidence and perseverance to lead others in the same direction, and the ability to support others’ personal goals (Bennis & Nanus, 1994). Not only this but they have other skills too. Let us analyse them one by one. 

Results-oriented – Visionary Leaders are result-oriented. Unlike others, these leaders need to use their talents in a strategic manner by deploying them as skillfully as they deploy the company’s resources. Leaders need to allocate their time and attention so that they get the greatest return per unit of time—in a manner similar to the way they allocate the company’s capital to get the highest return per rupee invested. They know what they want and they plan everything just the way to take them to their destination.

Foster change – Change can be stressful or dramatically disruptive. Executives must embrace the Star Trek prelude if they want to advance their organisation and shape its future. They should foster change. The ability to lead their businesses “where no corporation has gone before” is a requirement. They must be able to lead their businesses to the next level and even higher heights. They need to have intelligent individuals. And this can only happen if they know how to advance with the change.

Impatient Patient – The majority of people believe that the idea of impatient patience is absurd. Leaders with vision understand the difference between forcing the issue and allowing it to take root. Leaders must convey a sense of urgency, the idea that time is of the essence and that much needs to be done. However, the impact on morale can be disastrous if a leader is unreasonable—if he or she wants results right away. The most effective leaders strike a balance between urgency and tenacity. They must understand that demands to “Just do it!” rarely result in decisions being accepted by the masses. Decisions that call for input from others and their support could require some time to develop. People that produce ideas shouldn’t anticipate their concepts being adopted right away.

Forward Thinking – A visionary leader’s primary leadership quality is that they constantly monitor their organization’s progress toward their compelling future vision. Unlike others, who just think of today and at most the next step visionary leaders think a hundred steps ahead. They anticipate possible issues with the company model and come up with workable remedies before those issues arise.

Long-range planning – Many visionary leaders not only keep a clear vision of the broad picture but also have a strategic strategy to get a certain outcome with a long-range of planning. An effective visionary leader recognises the measures they and their team must take to achieve their ultimate goal, from quarterly initiatives to annual size targets.

Communication – To bring their new vision to life, a visionary leader needs a driven team. In order to facilitate communication and understanding between people and help them more effectively complete their tasks, a leader must have strong communication and relational skills. These skills are a function of how a leader uses verbal and nonverbal cues to address different thinking styles, promote participation, and ensure effective performance.

Goal setting – Nothing can divert a visionary leader’s laser-like attention. Like the fictional vision (of avenger) this vision also is the same. When obstacles arise, their positivity acts as a solid anchor. In order to achieve greatness, they encourage teams to embrace challenges rather than dwell on them. They set their goals in alignment with their team and do their best to achieve it.

Persistent – Visionary Leaders are aware that carrying out their vision will be difficult. But this is what fuels their tenacity in getting things done. Overcoming challenges on the route to success makes it that much sweeter. Visionary leaders are adept at overcoming obstacles and pushing through them to keep the team on track. They do this by modeling a “never-give-up” mentality for their followers.

Importance of Visionary Leadership Style

Vision Aligns Focus and Purpose – By looking to the future, visionary leadership style prioritises long-term objectives. Due to the coordination of their mission statement and regular targets, leaders are able to embrace the purpose of their organisation. Businesses that have visionary leadership style often outperform those that merely focus on immediate or daily tasks. It’s crucial to strike a balance because visionary leaders occasionally risk missing crucial details in the here and now because they are too preoccupied with the future.

Vision Provides A Picture of Future – The visionary leaderstyle  has the significant advantage of being able to convey their vision to others in a way that fosters organic momentum within the workplace culture. Even if the leader leaves or withdraws, the team and other stakeholders will carry on the vision. This is a significant advantage over charismatic leadership, which is highly dependent on the leader’s unique characteristics and personality and may leave the firm unable to move forward.

Vision Inspires Others – Since they take the time to explain their vision to the team and create a collaborative environment, visionary leaders frequently receive a great deal of support from both their employees and investors. Employees will be motivated to support the common goal under visionary leadership style that is effective, and investors will have faith in the leader’s vision for the business. Visionary business leaders should, however, keep in mind that their vision isn’t the only important aspect of their organisation; they should also be open-minded and take the time to listen to their investors and employees in order to improve the goal rather than bulldozing others in favour of their vision.

3 Visionary Leadership Examples That Have Changed The world

If you are asked, if you wish to be a good leader or a great leader, what would you choose? I mean the choice is quite obvious! Why be a good leader when you can be a great leader. Be the great leader, the visionary leader with a vision and inspire others to have a vision of their own. Here are a few inspiration that are going to help you take you to the vision you want to achieve.

  1. Maya Angelou – Maya Angelou was a legendary and inspirational public figure who served in a variety of capacities during her long life. She was a mother, a dramatist, a dancer, a singer, an actress, a poet, a memoirist, an activist, and many other things. The autobiographies she has written, beginning with the highly praised classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was originally published in 1969, are arguably what make Angelou most well-known. She served as a ray of hope for many generations. Everyone was extremely proud of her for her goal of empowering girls to speak up, discover their voices, and understand their greatness as extraordinary people.
  2. Nelson Mandela – The journey of Nelson Mandela saved his own life and changed the course of his entire nation. He had spent years in a cramped cage on Robin Island before being freed on February 11th, 1990. Despite all difficulties, he established a multiracial government in addition to ending apartheid. Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their contributions to the South African civil rights movement. Mandela became South Africa’s first black president a year later, and the rest of the world was moved by his message of hope. It served as a role model for equality that the entire world might learn from.
  3. Tarana Burke – The “Me Too” movement was started by Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist from The Bronx, New York. An illustration of a visionary is Tarana. She saw beyond her situation and contributed to the development of a campaign that changed the lives of women all around the world. Me too was uttered by women all around the world as a result of the ripple effect. They could admit to having experienced abuse. Women might be assured that they were not alone thanks to them. Tarana was able to convey the essence of individuals who had been impacted by it. It’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. You are in the right place at the right time, discovering that voice within of you that demands to be spoken. She encouraged others to express it by doing so. Similar influential leaders are emerging in large numbers. It can be you or a friend of yours.

Visionary leaders are created, not born. They develop as a result of hardship, repression, and tragedy. They are able to perceive the possibilities for all of us as a result of these encounters. A visionary leader is one who recognises the promise and potential in everyone.

The point is that a true visionary leader will gladly reject clients because they respect their capacity for independence. They believe the client can discover a solution and the resources they require on their own. Is this you? Or do want to be this then here are a few  visionary leadership quotes that will inspire you to become one.

Visionary Leadership Quotes To Help You Change Your Vision To Action

“The great mountain when seen from a distance shall always seem closer to us but to get to it, and to climb to its apex to get the best view, we may need to take and experience the real walk with resilience and tenacity.”

–Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

“What is the essence of this great unfolding paradigm in the world called effective coaching? Well, I’m going to say it in one word. Great questions evoking a vision.”

-Dr. Marilyn Atkinson

“Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country.”

-Idowu Koyenikan

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

-Warren Bennis

“When the vision is clear, the results will appear. Keep your mindset positive as you work your plan, flourish, and always remember why you started.”

-Germany Kent

“No one is less ready for tomorrow than the person who holds the most rigid beliefs about what tomorrow will contain.”

-Watts Wacker, Jim Taylor and Howard Means

“Vision is our linkage to that intuitive part of ourselves.”

-Dr. Marilyn Atkinson

“Visionary leaders show a hundred percent commitment and they are people who truly believe that they can get the job done much better than anybody else.”

-Dr. Marilyn Atkinson

“The empires of the future are empires of the mind.”

-Winston Churchill

“Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own.”

-Roy Bennett

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Visionary Leadership?

A leader who practices visionary leadership sees the future of the world and then acts to make it a reality. They actually make things happen rather than merely waiting around for them to happen. Instead of wasting time promoting numbers, they are aware that revolutions start with ideas. They don’t expect ideas to implement themselves since they realise that they only succeed to the extent that they are successfully carried out.

Who are Visionary Leaders?

Instead of waiting their turn, visionary leaders take the lead. Instead than wasting time criticising or rationalising, they provide answers. They take the initiative and volunteer rather than waiting for someone else to take the lead inside the organisation. Instead than waiting for a chance to knock, they find the door and kick it open. They seize EVERY opportunity instead of just THE moment.

What are the traits of a visionary leader?

Visionary leadership means that the leader understands the key elements of a vision—what must be included in a vision if it is to direct the organization into the future. They are result-oriented, fosters change, they are forward-thinking, they communicate well and do long range planning.

What is the importance of Visionary Leaders?

  • Vision Aligns Focus and Purpose
  • Vision Provides A Picture of Future 
  • Vision Inspires Others

Who are the famous Visionary Leadership Examples?

Here are a few inspirations that are going to help you take you to the vision you want to achieve.

  1. Maya Angelou 
  2. Nelson Mandela
  3. Tarana Burke