With a Compelling Vision & Culture, Talent will be Knocking at Your Door.
by Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of EDA, Inc., LinkedIn Learning Author & Co-Founder of WomenExecs on Boards
Jonathan Swift once said, “Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” Now, let’s think about this for a moment. The invisible isn’t just a predicted future if we keep going down the path we are on. No. It is a seed of an idea that has yet to sprout. It’s a dream, a possibility, a seed with no boundaries, and one not imprisoned by past or future obstacles. It’s a seed of an idea that could maybe, just maybe, change the world, or it may change something much closer to homes, such as the level of comfort in our office chairs, the size of our computer screens, the best way, or personal transportation options. When a vision is still in the idea state, there are no telling signposts and no guarantees, and that is why visionary leadership is difficult because there are no guarantees. It’s risky. It takes courage. But do not fear. You can be a visionary leader. It will require you to step out of your comfort zone, but you can do it. It’s a learnable skill, so let’s take a few minutes to think about why you may want to be a visionary leader and what is required.
First, let’s talk about why. Since 1982, my company EDA, Inc, has been researching Trends in Executive Development. Every two to three years, we work with hundreds of organizations to identify what they believe is needed in leadership in the next two to three years and to share what they are doing to educate and develop their most senior leaders. We gather this information from round the world and then pull together Executive Education experts to help us make sense of the data and predict future trends. And for the last six years, the trends indicate that we need leaders who can create a compelling vision and engage others around it.
Moreover, we learned that the current leaders rarely have this skill, and those coming up behind them didn’t have it either. And, through the pandemic, this skill became needed more than ever as we realized there were no answers on how to get through this. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, one right way. Leaders have to dream their way through this. I’ve often called leadership like driving through a thick fog. Many times, we have no idea what is around the corner or even that there is a corner coming soon. Leaders often do not know for sure if they have the right team, what their competitors’ capabilities are or even if they have what it takes to lead the company, division, or team through what is coming next. Yet, it still must be done. Leaders still have to lead, which means figuring out where the company could and possibly should go. They must decide where to lay the tracks for their company/train to run on. Once the tracks are laid, the company’s managers can work to ensure the train stays on the tracks, but leaders must decide where to lay the tracks. Where should the company go?
But having a compelling vision does not necessarily mean that your company will attract and retain top talent. Having a Compelling vision and culture, on the other hand, is the best scenario your desk will be piled with qualified applicants for every open position. When we work with clients, they often want to work on strategy, but it only takes a few questions to see that they are jumping into action too soon before they have started or finished the vision and culture work. It’s just as important to create a compelling vision and culture as it is to have operational excellence and the latter will go much better if the former is done first. It is extremely important work and more important now than it ever has been as the workforce has shifted to an insistence on working for companies who treat their employees well and have a purpose beyond making money.
While visionary leadership is crucial to a business, it is also crucial to individuals. All the same processes for creating a compelling vision can be applied to an individual’s vision for their life, a home, project, or community. The principles remain the same. Let me give you an example. Each evening when I have time, I go to LinkedIn Learning and look for the notifications where individuals have taken my courses. I like to congratulate them so that they know their personal initiative is recognized and appreciated. Recently one of LinkedIn’s learners, @RaveenLamarka wrote this:
How I Went From Burnout To Energy
“I was passionate and full of energy when I started my current position. I was committed to making a difference and helping the business be successful. But after a few months, I started to feel drained. I felt like I wasn’t working as an effective but putting in a lot of time working. I started to lose motivation and have second thoughts about working with the business. I worked to establish a personal vision aligned with the company’s vision to resolve these issues. I created a plan to help me attain the goals I set for myself. I also began to pay attention to my health, taking breaks and refueling away from work. Since implementing these modifications, I’ve felt a lot more motivated and successful. Thank you, Bonnie!!”
“Because of Bonnie , I could create and align my own vision with the organization thanks to her advice on leading with vision. Thanks to Dr Julie Smith , I could identify anxiety and burnout before I ever realized it, because of your post.”
I was so impressed with Raveen’s initiative to do the hard work, find a vision for himself, and work his way out of burnout and back to energy. I hope others who experience burnout or just need something to get excited about will do so do the same. So, whether it’s a whole organization, a division, department, team, home, community or just you as an individual, having a compelling vision for a positive future state is the first step to success, and anyone can do it, including you.
- (Bina 2016)1 Bina, Shideh Sedgh. “Culture Eats Everything for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.” Insigniam Quarterly, Summer 2016, 1.
- With Excerpts from Hagemann, B., Maketa, J. & Vetter, S. Leading with Vision. 1st ed., Nicholas Brealey, a Hachette Book Group Imprint. 2017.
CEO, EDA, Inc.
Executive Coach, Author, Speaker and Leader of Custom Executive Development Consulting Firm with world-class consultants, recognized in their fields as the creme-de-la-creme. Services include Executive and Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Succession Planning, and High Potential Development.
The Trends in Executive Development report has been the leading compilation of research for organizations across the globe to benchmark their executive and high-potential development.
A deep dive into the notion that a compelling vision is a differentiator for organizations that want to hire and retain talent, be more competitive, and thrive in uncertain times.