Business schools, leadership gurus and strategy guides agree — leaders must have a vision. But the sad truth is that most don’t…or at least not one that compels, inspires
and energizes their people. How can something so essential be practiced so little in real life? Vision may sound like a rare quality, unattainable by all except a select few — but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can expand their visionary capacity. You just need to learn how.
In Anticipate, strategy and leadership expert Rob-Jan de Jong explains that to develop
vision you must sharpen two key skills. The first is the ability to see things early — spotting
the first hints of change on the horizon. The second is the power to connect the
dots — turning those clues into a gripping story about the future of your organization
and industry. Packed with stories and practices, Anticipate provides proven techniques for
looking ahead and exploring many plausible futures, including the author’s trademarked
Future Priming process, which helps distinguish signal from noise.
You will discover how to tap into your imagination and open yourself to the unconventional,
become better at seeing things early, frame the big-picture view that provides
direction for the future, and communicate your vision in a way that engages others and
provokes action. When you anticipate change before your competitors, you create enormous strategic advantage. That’s what visionaries do … and now so can you.
Part I: Visionary Content
Creating a vision requires ideas, ideally intriguing and refreshing ideas that trigger people’s interest, curiosity and excitement. It requires engagement with your imagination and an ability to think outside the clichéd box.
Tapping into Your Imagination
Without imagination, you are stating the obvious or holding on to the status quo; your vision falls flat. With it, however, your vision becomes intriguing, exciting, refreshing.
Suddenly, it has the potential to energize and mobilize.
Part II: Visionary Practices
Developing Your Visionary Capacity
The potential to come up with — and hold on to and cultivate — a brilliant idea or a vision is within all of us. Visionary leadership isn’t a personality trait, although it is sometimes confused with concepts like charismatic leadership. The big question is how. How do you go about developing this crucial leadership competence?
Seeing Things Early
We’re not aiming to become accurate, or even good, predictors of the future. Instead, we’re working to develop an increased awareness of changing realities, building
antennas for the distant signals that might push the future in a different direction from the one we currently and conventionally foresee. We can then become better at recognizing those signals and their potential impact when they present themselves in some early form. Your ability to see things early is at the heart of what leadership expert Warren Bennis calls adaptive capacity.
Connecting the Dots
In addition to strengthening the ability to see things early, we must equally improve our ability to create a coherent story going forward. This coherent story must consist of what we expect, foresee, envision, and anticipate. It needs to resonate, make sense, and be the guiding light into the future for our followers. I call this second developmental dimension of visionary capacity the ability to connect the dots.
Part III: Your Visionary Self
Your Visionary Self
Author Warren Bennis promotes an integrated perspective on leadership, consisting of four essential competencies: vision, adaptive capacity, voice, and integrity. Here we’ll explore the relationship between your visionary capacity and Bennis’ concepts of voice and integrity — the identity-oriented aspects.
Leading with authenticity also means you must practice what you preach. The best evidence of your true feelings and beliefs comes less from your words than from your
deeds. When your words are believably connected to what you do, when you behave in line with your vision, only then do you display integrity and build trust with your followers.
Part IV: Visionary Communication
Igniting Your Followers
You can have great ideas, make the powerful practices second nature, have clarity on your core purpose and values, and exercise the right behaviors for growth. But if you are unable to communicate your vision in a way that engages and energizes others, the Vision Thing still won’t work for you. There are several specific visionary communication qualities that, when done right, will transform your story from something future-oriented but technical and uninspiring to something that invigorates your followers.