Every day we hear of new visionary ideas: travel to Mars, self-driving cars, new technological gadgets that will make our lives so much easier. The list goes on and on. Every leader knows it is his or her responsibility to come up with new ideas that will lead the organization into the future and surpass the competition. But not every leader is, by nature, a visionary. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The world needs visionaries, of course, but it also needs leaders who can choose among possible directions for their organizations, analyze the risks and potential benefits, and make informed choices that are not likely to bankrupt the company.
If you are insecure about your ability to envision opportunities, take heart. You wouldn’t have been hired in an executive position if you didn’t have at least some of these skills. Every skill can be learned and improved. And every organization has staff members who naturally excel in thinking up new ways into the future. Even if you don’t envision the opportunities yourself, your strength may lie in recognizing and promoting them when they come to your attention.
Leadership requires bold thinking. Not every innovation works out, of course, but failure to innovate creates stagnation, and stagnation leads to reduced market share and, ultimately, failure. It’s crucial that you support creative ideas and put them to work. Your enthusiasm for innovation encourages others to support your ideas and help you implement them.
If envisioning opportunities is not your strong suit, here are some tips to help you improve in this competency.
The biggest reason people don’t undertake a bold vision is because they are afraid of failure. The truth is that everybody fails. Everyone makes mistakes. Your challenge is to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. Effective executives choose to innovate and take risks, and they don’t allow their fear of failure to stop them.
Make sure you thoroughly understand your organization and its history. Be able to articulate the organization’s existing vision statement. Know where you can support this vision and where you will want to change it to take the organization into the future.
Identify the creative visionaries in your field and get to know them. Better yet, hire them for your team if you can.
Keep current on the trends that will shape your industry. Regularly read newspapers and periodicals that report on your industry. Attend conferences and other meetings that feature futurists and ideas for innovations.
Get to know your peers in other parts of the organization. If possible, form a “visionary group” in which you meet regularly to discuss trends and ideas for the future.
Try out your ideas on your team. Listen carefully to their reactions. They are the ones who will need to implement your plans. If they are pessimistic, challenge them to come up with better ideas.
If you pay attention, you will notice that good ideas are everywhere. Effective leaders aren’t always exceptional innovators or legendary risk-takers on their own, but they recognize good ideas when they see them and support those skills in others. If you encourage visionary thinking in yourself and your team members, everyone will benefit.