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Leadership 101: Are You A Visionary Leader

What does it take to go from a leader to a visionary leader? And what can visionary leaders get out of coaching?

A woman interacts with futuristic holographic technology in a dark room.

Connect The Dots: Partnering With The Vision

Who do you think of when you hear the word “leadership”? What sort of person springs to mind when you picture a strong, motivational leader? Chances are high that at least one of the examples you just imagined is someone who can be called a visionary leader

What is a visionary leader? Well, Oxford Dictionary defines a visionary as someone “original and showing the ability to think about or plan the future with great imagination and intelligence.” They might envision a future, or they think about the future with intelligence and experience in a way that makes them great at anticipating what’s to come and what relevant decisions they can make based on their predictions. 

As a visionary, these types of leaders will imagine a future, but it doesn't stop with just imagination. A visionary leader will get what tools they need to achieve the vision. And leaders don’t act alone. Part of being a visionary leader is being able to share that vision with others. It’s a leadership style but it can be one that makes for the most inspirational leaders. 

So a visionary leader has to share that vision with others effectively and work to successfully see the vision through into a reality. These, along with first and foremost the ability to see the world differently to start with, are the three qualities that Michigan State University believes all visionary leaders share. 

Aside from qualities, visionary leaders also share a pattern of skill sets. Forbes identifies five of these visionary leader skills as: being able to create a compelling vision, clearly articulating your vision to others, embracing change and a growth mindset, thinking outside the box and not being afraid to take risks, and consistently considering the bigger picture.

Visionary leaders find what motivates their team. They’re often contagiously passionate. Sometimes, they may share their vision clearly, but not plan out every step for their team. Instead, they inspire their team to be imaginative as well. The end conclusion is clear, but everyone can be engaged and creative about their own ideas for how to reach that conclusion and what they as a team should do. Rather than being heavily involved in management and details, a visionary leader is a motivation for their team. Sometimes, however, this can lead to complications on the leader’s end if they don’t have a reasonable aim and aren’t trying to pinpoint the steps they’ll need to take to make their vision doable. 

Everyone’s role on a team is important. But having a vision to aim for is critical. If no one on a team has a vision, they amble without going somewhere with a purpose. This is why, while all leadership styles are valuable, we so often think of the visionary when picturing a leader.

Join CLCI Live as Jen Long (ACC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Brooke Adair Walters (ACC), and Lisa Finck (PCC) discuss visionary leadership and where coaching can come in to help visions develop into grounded goals.

Connect The Dots: Partnering With The Vision

What does this mean in coaching?

As a coach, you display traits of the visionary leader when you have a vision for the future of your business. You might display further traits as well while avoiding the pressures around your practice and gathering resources to continue meeting your goals. Rather than hopping on trends for this business that you don’t want to, or that you don’t think align with your vision, you stick instead to what does align. 

But what we see more often are the visions of the client. 

Coaches will borrow their client’s vision from the start. They’ll partner with their client while the latter builds onto the future they’re imagining, identifying components of their vision and making it more and more realistic. You might ask your client what they are picturing/want out of the package they bought. Is this about goals? Yes and no. A vision alone doesn’t necessarily act as a goal, even if someone might feel like it is their vague aim. The vision needs to be developed and held to long term. At that point, it really is no different from a long term goal. 

Hearing back what they’ve been sharing of their vision can give clients the opportunity to be excited about seeing it coming together, or have them ready to make alterations if what they’re hearing no longer feels correct. A coachable goal has to be doable, first and foremost- a vision should be too, as well as timely, relevant, and motivating. 

Consider a game of connect the dots. While the passion and motivation might be there, the picture -the ‘vision’- won’t just instantly appear on the paper. Connecting dots willy-nilly could lead to nothing but a mess. This is where a coach comes in. Looking purely at the far future isn’t going to magically make that future appear in the now. Instead, steps have to be made, connected one after another. Coaching is goal-oriented towards the client’s goal, but rather than only focusing on that ‘mission’, they can help a client check in and see if the steps they’re picking and their conclusion are really matching their vision. They are an outside perspective partnered with the client and that perspective can allow them to see that the steps being taken are aligned to that vision so that the client can connect the right dots to make the picture work.

Can A Coach Make Me A Visionary Leader?

No, coaching can’t make someone a visionary leader. Because coaching can’t make anyone anything. The coaching relationship is a partnership, not the same as an instructor and student, not a potter and their creations.

A coach won’t ‘mold’ you into anything. However, coaching can absolutely help! It can help people identify components of their visions, or foster a safe space for someone to indulge in imagination and ideas for the future that they otherwise wouldn’t think they should bother with.

To be a visionary leader, someone has to be a leader. Next, they have to envision a future they want to create, which a coach can certainly help develop.

Visionary leaders are passionate, bright, and motivating for their creativity, who easily fall into spotlights. So when we think of a leader, we often think of them. A leader might discover while in coaching, however, that they actually want to be something else. One of the other leadership styles may match them better, or may match what they hope to become more closely. Like anyone, leaders go through self discovery. Some of the other leadership styles include democratic leadership style, pace setting leadership style, affiliative leadership style, and more. An effective leader doesn’t have to be a visionary.

Just like coaching can’t ‘make’ anyone anything, if you are a leader, you don’t have to make yourself a visionary leader for your team to be successful. And if you’re a creative with goals for your personal future that doesn’t want to lead a team, you don’t have to try to make yourself a leader. But don’t be afraid to explore who you are and what you hope to see in the future. And don’t be afraid to work with anyone towards making your vague goals realistic and doable.


Thank you,

Jen Long (ACC), Lisa Finck (MCC) Anthony Lopez (MCPC), and Brooke Adair Walters (ACC)!

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