In a global environment that often seems chaotic, business leaders may easily feel like they are stuck in a fog. It takes courage to try to see past this fog and create a vision that will lead employees forward, says Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of Executive Development Associates and co-author of Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce (Nicholas Brealey, 2017).
In a podcast interview with AMA, Hagemann talks about the importance of setting a vision that captures the hearts of employees. This process can be difficult because the leader must “step out of the crowd,” an action the brain perceives as taking a risk. But anyone who is willing to take that risk can imagine a “positive future state”—creating the vision—and gain the buy-in of others in achieving it.
Hagemann says that global leaders must “see past the fog and imagine what the future needs to be, and then start leading through it even though they don’t know what’s coming, they don’t know the adversary’s intent, they don’t know their own capabilities…. So it’s going to take some courage.”
From vision to action
According to Hagemann, leaders need a process that links their vision to an action state. This linkage is critical because “a vision without action is just a wish,” she said. Here are the basic steps she recommends:
- Imagine the invisible, then vet the vision by getting others involved.
- Get employees throughout the organization to have a strategic conversation.
- Create options for different ways to achieve the vision.
- Identify all the changes that must be made to get there.
- Communicate the vision and foster understanding among employees.
Engaging employees is essential to leading with vision. When the vision is compelling and people’s hearts are involved, says Hagemann, they’ll want to go to that future state. Fostering understanding helps each employee decide what his or her role will be in playing out the company’s “story.”
“Every company and every organization is actually a story to be told, and every employee who ever goes through there is a part of that story,” says Hagemann. “So in order to get people engaged in the vision, they have to feel like their scene is important and their character…is an important part of that scene.”
Listen to the AMA Edgewise podcast with Bonnie Hagemann.
For insights into other business topics, visit AMA’s Edgewise podcast page.
Once you’ve created a compelling vision, you need leadership communication skills to inspire employees, get their buy-in, and achieve the results you want.