Leadership and Vision

A sine qua non of nearly every talk or blog on leaderhip is the importance of vision. Typically the author says that unless the leader has visualised and articulated a dream which he or she then successfully communicates to the team, then he or she will fail as a leader.

While this sounds terrific, my experience says this is not what happens. As a venture capitalist, I was involved for 25 years with start-up and growing companies and far important than vision for success was flexibility. Success came not from developing a vision and following through. Success was more due to a combination of being flexible, chasing the right opportunities and keeping a very tight control on costs and cash. Consequently whenever I heard someone talking about the importance of vision, I would usually shut my eyes and go to sleep (metaphorically if not literally).

Recently I attended an alumni reunion at the London Business School and as part of the celebrations the school has their top lecturers speaking on various topics. One of the speakers was Professor of Organisation Behaviour, Nigel Nicholson and his topic was The ‘I’ of Leadership: Destiny, Drama and Deliberation. Surprise, surprise it turns out Nicholson has just published a new book The I of Leadership: Strategies for Seeing, Being and Doing. I have bought the book but not yet read it. What convinced me to buy the book was not just Nicholson’s workshop but his definition of vision.

According to Nicholson: Vision can be defined as the leader seeing things the rest of the team do not see. Successful leaders use their ability to see what others do not see to frame their actions and build a successful business. Perhaps the best modern example has been Steve Jobs. He did not just transform one industry, by his ability to see what others could not see he transformed four: Personal Computing with the Mac/Ipad, Music with Itunes/Ipod, Communications with the Iphone and the Movie industry with Pixar.

Leaders fail through their lack of insight ­ into themselves and the worlds they inhabit. Again Apple provides a wonderful example in the form of John Scully who is immortalised by this famous quote while he was CEO of Apple: ‘Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company. This was a lunatic plan. High-tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product.’ He could not have been more wrong.

If you Google “Leadership+Vision” you only get 222 million hits. On the first page there is a link to Quotes on Vision on a website Leading Thoughts – Building a community of leaders. (http://www.leadershipnow.com/visionquotes.html) Naturally there are no quotes by Jobs but there is one by Sculley. “The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” Sometimes the irony of life is truly delicious.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web www.ceo.com.au.