A leader is a visionary, somebody that has an eye for his or her environment, and is continuously monitoring the changing circumstances. He or she sees the future and analyses the impact of the changing playing field on his/her organization. A leader is a trend strategist.
The vision of an organization is the collective sum of the individual visions of the stakeholders. These include visions of events, developments, and other things in its surroundings, with consequences for the organization. They need a vision of how to create shared value. Leaders should realize that a vision is dynamic, so visionary leadership is about trendwatching, creating a situational stakeholder awareness of the future environment, and enabling the organization to adapt itself to the dynamics of modern society.
The mission statement is the embodiment of that vision and can (and should) be used as a point of reference for all stakeholders in their daily (business) life.
The stronger an individual stakeholder’s (shared) vision, the better this person operates independently, with a capability for self-steering. Processes gain speed and the whole organization rocks!
Leaders are aware of the position the organization in the living and working environment of its stakeholders. This “eye for the own environment” encompasses many points of interest: technology, society, economy, politics, and government. Leaders of organizations keep a close watch on the moral ideology of the organization, on their own level, and, with it, its sustainability. In this case, I define sustainability as the sum of financial returns, social renewal, and an ecological awareness. This goes much further than simply “being green.” It is great to transcend the whole, but an organization eventually finds its bed in the local community. “Think global, act local.”
Vision is something that relates the present in to a certain goal in the future. Leadership is also about winning (or conquering). There is nothing wrong with that. Leading an organization means identifying future obstacles and leveling them, thus making sure that the organization does not lose momentum. Many strategic insights may be acquired from the Art of War. This chapter began with a quote from the Chinese general Sun Tzu, but we can also learn from warlords like Genghis Khan and Karl von Clausewitz, the Prussian general who is recognized as the founder of modern warfare. They all identify the same factors of success to turn leaders into victors:
1. Be aware of what is going on around you (situational awareness)
2. Have expertise, but also have metacognition (how do I impart intelligence?)
3. Communicate (knowing something before the opposition on all levels, enabling a faster decision-making process)
4. Delegate (people within the coordinating vision who have the relevant information and knowledge follow their own strategy)
Governing is akin to looking forward. Leadership is about anticipating. Arriving too late, and, consequently, only reacting is deadly. This requires vision as well.