No, I don’t believe they do, but it definitely helps.
Leadership books nearly all tell you that successful leaders are those with vision. They cite it as critical to being influential. Their argument is convincing. They say that you need to be visionary because…
- You need to be able to create a compelling future.
- Vision motivates people to go that extra mile.
- Organisations need to innovate in order to compete and survive.
- Shareholders and stakeholders require it.
- Followers expect it in their leaders.
These books back it up with brilliant anecdotal stories of the likes of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, etc. Good stuff and it is almost impossible to argue against it. In fact, as impossible as it is to believe that mere mortals like you and me can achieve it!
And here lies the first problem. True visionaries are generally born, not made. They happen to have an inbuilt eye for the future. A talent for seeing the impossible — or as some would put it, they are dreamers. As we know, dreamers don’t get far unless they can convince others that the impossible could be possible. Sure, it is certainly possible to develop creative and innovative thinking techniques, but it gives rise to a second problem.
If you’re not a natural visionary, you’re unlikely to be convincing with your vision. If you have added creative thinking to your skill set, great; but it is unlikely to be able to replace your natural logical or tactical approach. This is because the two modes of thought are incompatible. You can’t do them both and the strongest one will probably win out. So, in a leadership position, you’ll be a minimalist visionary and revert to the here and now every chance you get.
This gives us a third major problem with the argument that you have to be visionary to be a leader — it’s futile. If gurus run around saying this is what you’ve got to be like to be successful, and you realise that you’re not able to do it, how does that affect your self-motivation? Hopefully, most people will realise that they have other qualities and just get on with things, leaving the gurus’ words safely in their books. However, I do wonder how many people do get discouraged and disheartened.
Finally, and here’s the interesting bit, take a look around you at the successful leaders in your organisation. Are they visionary? I suspect that the vast majority don’t get close. In my experience — and I’ve coached a lot of people — visionary leaders make up less than 1% of the current leadership population. Put the other way, 99% of leaders, most of whom are very successful, are not visionary!
So, please don’t accept that you have to be visionary to be a leader, because clearly you don’t. There is no doubt that it helps a great deal. Instead…
- Focus on your own natural talents, make them exceptional.
- Find a place to deploy them where they will be highly valued.
- Seek a leadership position which plays to your strengths.
- Keep working on your brilliance and become inspirational.
And it is probably in that last word that the secret of becoming an influential leader lies. If you can inspire those around you, provided you have something of value for them, you will lead and influence to a great extent.
Anyone can become inspirational in their own natural way when they become brilliant at what they do.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
This resource is one of over 500 articles, and 50 hours of video content he has packed into his Breakthrough Influence Series of online courses.