Passion is a key component of a leader. Leaders generally don’t get to where they are without it. The same is true of drive, good ideas, and execution. Even confidence. But none of that is enough to replace vision. Passion and all the rest can fuel the mission, but vision is the North Star to get you there.
Unfortunately, too many leaders don’t see vision as a crucial ingredient. This is a dangerous mindset to maintain, because the stakes are so high. It can be the difference between success and failure, being a pioneer or being passed by. As I’ve worked with entrepreneurs and executives, and led organizations myself, I’ve found that leaders who undervalue vision tend to stumble into one or more of these four pitfalls:
- Unpreparedness for the future. No one can see the future, but having a vision can help you clarify where you’re trying to go and prepare for what’s ahead. Computer scientist Alan Kay famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Vision is the first step in doing that. Locking one’s self into the present might feel safe for now, but it ultimately stifles innovation and sets the stage for failure.
- Missed opportunities. Vision keeps us attuned to possibilities that align with the future we see. Otherwise, those opportunities slide right by. It can be easy to default to seeing only obstacles. Having vision, though, refocuses your perspective to see opportunity instead.
- Scattered priorities. Without a vision, the opposite can also be a problem: everything looks like an opportunity. When we’re unclear about our destination, we tend to make short-range decisions, pursuing whatever opportunities look good in the moment. Things that appear promising up close, however, can prove disastrous with a wider perspective. Vision can help you separate the seemingly good from the legitimately great.
- Wasted resources. When the focus is on execution to the exclusion of vision, leaders miss the role vision plays in execution. This can then create frustration within teams and waste valuable resources, including a leader’s own time and energy. Vision provides both a direction for execution and the standard by which to judge performance. Otherwise, teams pour themselves into irrelevant outcomes and unimportant projects. They won’t know what success looks like. Everyone ends up running in circles.
You’re much more likely to get to a destination you like if you’re intentional about where you’re heading. That’s why vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It provides meaning for the day-to-day. And it keeps you, and the people around, moving forward. Where can you expand your vision to avoid these pitfalls?