We are now living the golden age of Hollywood superheroes. Somehow, in the shadow of 9/11 people need to see some extraordinary individuals with unbelievable power who believe in and fight for humanity. But apart from the classic Superman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman a brand new generation of superheroes (and villains) are now captivating the public’s imagination.
One such extraordinary entity is one who can hold an infinity stone on his forehead and, according to Wikipedia “has superhuman senses, superhuman stamina, reflexes, speed, agility, strength (even without being at high density), superhuman analytical capabilities, and the ability to process information and make calculations with superhuman speed and accuracy.” He has no mass, is practically invisible (well, in the comics he is, on screen he is Paul Bettany and looks great) but holds incredible power.
What intrigued me about this particular character was the name: Vision. Because it does not sound like an impressive superpower yet is one of the most sought after these days.
People need purpose
One of the main problems companies face today is attracting and holding down the right kind of people for the organization. Employees don’t simply work for the paycheck anymore – not that money is not important, but they place great value on a lot of other aspects such as having a good work-personal life balance, making a difference and feeling appreciated.
That’s why inspiring leaders are the key to successful teams and business but they too are hard to come by. When one thinks of individuals with the power to inspire some extraordinary people such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or (in an entirely different way) Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. It just seems impossible to have one of these in each organization, let alone leading every team.
However, if a company is able to find the right talent, those people will grow and eventually engage and lead others on the route to success. The first step towards drawing in the right people is managing to distill the company’s purpose into a true and catchy phrase.
Defining the company’s vision statement
While born inspirational leaders are rather scarce, the need for organizations to figure out and communicate their vision at every point of interaction with both customers and employees is becoming greater by the day.
Millennials and Gen-Zs are increasingly concerned with making a difference and being associated with organizations that share and promote their own values. One study has demonstrated that employees who think their company's vision is meaningful have engagement levels of 68 percent, which is 19 points above average.
Customers, in their turn, chose to take their business where they feel they are listened to and understood. That’s why a flawlessly designed vision statement needs to be at the heart of every successful company. My personal favorite is Disney’s so simple yet so appealing “to make people happy”.
Of course for different organizations the goals and the focus may be very different but ultimately a good vision statements should encapsulate the core values, the ones that can give the business shape, direction and a clear path for the foreseeable future.
Leading with vision
When it comes to leaders as individuals, the process of defining, internalizing and ultimately communicating the vision becomes a much more personal one. It’s not like they just get the company’s booklet about what it stands for and where it wants to go and simply repeat that to their teams hoping everything will go smoothly from there.
Apart from understanding and adhering to the already defined organizational vision, a leader has to be able to think of the particular challenges they and their team will have to face and what the best way to tackle them will be. Vision is mainly about figuring out how the future will look like and how to get people to it.
It’s imagination and clarity all at once – Martin Luther King may have succeeded in leading millions with his “I have a dream” speech but he also had a plan and those two combined lead to a fantastic outcome.
The difficulty stands in communicating a personal vision in a way that it will reach and move others, gaining the necessary momentum to surpass any hurdles or make a change. Vision means being aware of the past while planning out the future.
As the out of this world superhero so eloquently put it, it is a privilege to be among people. It is an even greater honor to get to lead them. Warren Bennis, professor of business administration at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business spelled it clearly:
In order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision.
So lead your team with vision in the year that’s just around the corner!