Leadership: That Vision Thing


Great leaders are praised for having vision. But what is this vision thing and how does it relate to leadership?

Wayne Gretzky, Hall of Fame hockey player and the National Hockey League leader in many scoring categories, famously said that he does not go where the puck is, but where it is going to be. He was often praised for his “vision” of where everyone was on the ice to create opportunities.

Great leaders are praised for having vision. But what is this vision thing?

Vision to Define an Organization’s Culture & Mission.

Leaders of companies with sustained growth have defined themselves in ways that stand the test of time. Rather than focusing on just developing a personal computer, Steve Jobs defined Apple as a company that has become integral in many aspects of our lives: creating, computing, entertainment, and communicating. Companies who focused on just microcomputers come and go as new platforms replace older ones. Companies that are stuck on particular technologies or business lines can become obsolete. Jobs was also fanatical about how things look, felt and were used making Apple a highly loyal brand. Likewise, Southwest Airlines has created a culture of being fun while efficient and has a stellar reputation for passenger travel.

Vision to look beyond the short-term for long-term prosperity. Malden Mills experienced a disaster back in December 1995. Rather than cut its losses and close down, CEO Aaron Feuerstein made the commitment to rebuild the factory and the town it was in. They became Polartech, which is a leader in fleece type clothing all over the world.

Vision to see opportunities. Federal Express saw that timeliness was increasing in importance and developed a stellar reputation for delivering when it absolutely positively has to get there. By locating in a favorable and geographically central area, it employs a hub and spoke system to handle huge amounts of correspondence and cargo.

Vision to discern the false promises. Abbott Labs has become a great pharmaceutical company because it subjects it entrepreneurial leaders of innovative products to a rigorous series of key business criteria. If it does not meet these criteria, then they don’t get to continue down an ill-advised path. Too often, companies chase the quick return or the trend du jour.

Vision to build lasting relationships by being genuine. During the 1980’s Johnson and Johnson was thrust into the limelight by two well-publicized health scares, toxic shock syndrome from super absorbent tampons and tampering of Advil. Rather than hide behind legalese, J&J was forthright and pulled these products off the shelves, took the lead on researching solutions, and shared information with the public, health and law enforcement officials.  While it took a large short-term loss, it remains a leader in both markets in part to its genuine approach to the crisis.

While there are more traits to being a leader, having a vision for what you want your company to represent and be known for is key. Then having the discerning vision to take the important steps to put the resources in place to deliver on that potential is how companies become great.

– Matt Baker, Chief Adventure Officer, Terrapin Adventures

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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