Harvard Business Review
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You Don’t Have to Be CEO to Be a Visionary Leader

Summary.  Creating a unifying vision for an organization is a fundamental skill for leaders. A simple, bold, inspirational vision can feel almost magical: it brings people throughout the company together around a common goal and provides a focal point for developing strategies to achieve a better future. Unfortunately, however, building a vision has become more associated with a company’s top-level leadership than the managers in the rest of the organization. But even as an aspiring leader there are three vision-creation opportunities that you can grasp now: contributing to senior leaders’ vision work, translating the company’s vision for your team, and developing a new front-line team vision that can be cascaded up through the company. Each of these can propel your professional development, leading to bigger responsibilities over time.

Creating a unifying vision for an organization is a fundamental skill for leaders. A simple, bold, inspirational vision can feel almost magical: it brings people throughout the company together around a common goal and provides a focal point for developing strategies to achieve a better future. Unfortunately, however, building a vision has become more associated with a company’s top-level leadership than the managers in the rest of the organization. How often have you heard something like: “leaders set aspirational direction, while managers simply ensure that day-to-day operations follow accordingly”?

Even as a manager (and aspiring leader), however, you have a number of opportunities to get hands-on experience in shaping vision. In our research for the HBR Leader’s Handbook, we identified three critical vision-creation opportunities that you can grasp, even if you are not the CEO: contributing to senior leaders’ vision work, translating the company’s vision for your team, and developing a new front-line team vision that can be cascaded up through the company. Each of these can propel your professional development, leading to bigger responsibilities over time. We’ll look at these more closely before closing with practical advice about how you can make the most of these opportunities.

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