Very often, when we ask organizations what is essential to bring organizational effectiveness and gain competitive advantage, the common replies are associated with the organizational structure, culture, technology, and management practices. However, these organizations fail to mention two primary elements that are key to bring organizational effectiveness – innovation and creativity.
The most creative and effective organizations are not built by accident. You cannot force creativity at work. It’s a continuous process that requires leaders to drive change in structure, culture, and processes to bring innovation and creativity to the workplace. However, the first thing needed for an innovative workplace is to have a shared vision. The best leaders in innovation are the ones who create a common vision and strategic goals, and surround themselves with highly creative people. Not only this, such leaders empower the people around them to innovate on their own as well as on the organization’s behalf.
A visionary leader must ensure that everyone knows where the organization is heading. In simple words, a visionary leader is one who can clearly see where he or she wants to be in the future and then create necessary steps to get the organization and its people there. In the words of Onyi Anyado, “A visionary is a leader of excellence who sees what others do not see, who achieves for now and plans for the future, who positively impacts different generations and raises up other visionaries.”
Such visionary leaders have a compelling vision for their organization – they see beyond all the ambiguities and challenges of today to an empowering image of tomorrow.
Here are three attributes that we believe are critical for a visionary leader.
Balance Vision and Action
It is essential for a leader to strike a balance between a vision and the actions needed to achieve that vision. In simple words, vision is the ultimate destination that a leader wants to reach, while the actions are the steps taken on the path to reach that destination. To achieve that balance, the instructions and directions required to accomplish the end goal must be laid out in a crystal-clear way from the outset. The actions should solely be focused on how to get to the vision.
However, merely communicating the vision to the team might not motivate them to work in that direction. A visionary leader should have a good understanding of his or her team and know what motivates them. Hence, it is vital to create an environment where employees can realize their peak performance and have the freedom of creativity, something that is imperative to achieve the set vision. For example, leaders can ensure that the workplace has a comfortable cafeteria or a break room with cozy furniture and whiteboards, where employees can relax and brainstorm together.
Don’t Forget to Listen
A visionary leader does not ignore what others have to say and does only what he or she thinks is right. Although you will find a lot of naysayers whom you will need to ignore, it’s equally critical to listen to what others have to say. Until you take feedback seriously, chances are less that you will succeed. Today, the business world is constantly evolving and, hence, it becomes essential for a leader to keep others’ viewpoints and experiences in mind and make a well-informed decision.
Invest Time to Cultivate Relationships
A visionary leader has an in-depth knowledge of the organization and its people. However, one cannot simply know everything. By networking with the right people from within and outside the organization, a leader can gain a broader scope of knowledge. Quite literally, an external point of view can sometimes open our minds to re-think our decisions. Hence, all visionaries should invest time to cultivate relationships that offer balance, especially with people who are invested in the success of the organization.
Remember, innovation and creativity at the workplace is only worthwhile if it results in action. As a leader, share your vision with your team, outline the steps you plan to take to achieve that vision, encourage your team to come up with innovative ideas, and keep them enthused about staying on the same path. In Malcolm Gladwell’s words, “The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world.”
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