Vision! It’s always touted by management and leadership gurus as a leader’s critical asset. Without it, you don’t know where you’re headed. With it, you can achieve wonders. But Vision can be under-utilised and over-hyped.
The problem with Vision is its marred by occlusions in our sight, obstacles to our field of vision, myopia, tunnel vision, and our imperceptible saccadic movements that keep us aware but possibly distracted. Vision is not easy to pursue when you’re spending every day in the depths of dense regulations, paperwork, emails, tweets, directives from your boss, managing your people, handling inquiries from clients (or friends and family), let alone the really tough stuff.
So here are some practices you can use to practically and productively develop far-sighted Vision that will truly benefit you and yours in the long run:
1. Devote Time Regularly to Daydreaming
Taking the time to set everything else aside and do a bit of daydreaming does wonders for you in many ways: it helps you to relax, helps you to focus in your ‘up’ times and helps you to think of new and creative approaches to problems. Importantly, it also gives you time to very particularly visualise how things can be better from your perspective and others’.
But you may say,
- “I’m too busy!”
- “I’m a Type A personality!”
- “I’m too practical!”
- “I’ve got my head grounded in reality!”
Really? What other excuses are you going to make? Specifically setting aside the time means you can devote your cognitive resources to deliberately wandering your mind around a topic, instead of trying to cram that in on top of everything else, which is counter-productive and decreases performance all round. Daydreaming can also aid retention and instantiation of knowledge and ideas, helping you to embed concepts in your memory and thinking.
Putting your imagination to work will also enhance your overall concentration and your ability to connect ideas at other times. Try it and see!
2. Don’t Dream Alone
How many times have I heard an executive or senior leader go on about “My vision”, wondering why no-one else either gets it or cares? That’s because people want to have a part in their own vision and want to know how they could fit in to yours. The solution? Dream with others, too.
Take the time to inquire and listen for others’ ideas. Involve them in discussions. Ask them how they envision their work or their future and incorporate that into your own deliberations and imagination.
“If your vision doesn’t involve others, then it’s not a leadership aspiration, it’s an egotist’s self-delusion.” – Peter J. McLean
3. Read Some Great Literature
Never tried War and Peace? Well, you don’t have to take the time now. However, you can definitely take the time to read through some of the greats – like Shakespeare, Milton, Melville, Dickens, Tolkien, L’Engle, Lewis, Angelou, Chekov, Stoppard, Conrad, Austen, Bronte(s), Socrates, Sartre and S. Morgenstern (aka W. Goldman) – and use their thoughts and words as impetus to your own. What can beat reading a few lines of poetry for creating a vision? And it would be remiss of me not to mention spiritual literature. I have found that the most inspiring and driving of all and I’m sure you would, too.
“Great literature provides great leaders with perspective on their endeavours, insights for life and wisdom to inform a vision. It also provides the language to convey that to others.” – Peter J. McLean
4. Read an Historical Biography or Watch an Historical Documentary
It’s not that you want to copy the lives and decision of those in the past, but learning how others made their decisions, the mistakes they made and the obstacles they had to overcome can help you to gain insight into the decisions you need to make and the actions you need to take.
I recently read through Doris Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”, about the political life of Abraham Lincoln, his many rivals for the US presidency and those surrounding Lincoln. Lincoln’s character and decisions during the American Civil War make for an incredibly thoughtful study in leadership and public service under fire in the middle of one of the world’s most horrific wars (will people ever learn?). A superlative book like this also demonstrates the impact on the lives of everyone involved.
Catherine the Great, Winston Churchill, Golda Meir and contemporaries like Jobs and Gates, can all become fascinating points of reflection. And if you want to know about eras of rapid technological change and growth, forget the 2010s – watch some documentaries about the world in the late 1800s. For example, viewing “The Men Who Built America” lends a fascinating insight into the times of people like John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie (globally known names), who make Jobs look like a teenage nerd. I would never recommend some of their tactics, but the growth they oversaw is astonishing.
5. Take a Cue From Nature
Going for a walk in nature decreases stress and depression and improves our positive mindset. Even short walks outdoors have been found to increase our cognitive performance in memory, problem solving and higher order creativity. But there are other benefits to walking outdoors and studying the natural world around us. From aerodynamics to healing technologies to self-learning principles in robotics, the study of nature continues to yield vast amounts of insight and prompt analogical creativity in human endeavours. We still only barely understand a fraction of how the world around us works. It’s probably a good thing to learn from the most resilient and powerful system that we can observe, because these will create the great ideas of the future.