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What Is Visionary Leadership?

Oct 26, 2020


What springs to mind when someone mentions the title “visionary leader”? Leaders in high tech most likely: Steve Jobs introducing a new product destined to change the way we communicate with each other. Or Elon Musk announcing his company’s latest innovation in automobile production. Visionary leadership exists in most, if not all, other fields too. In the 1970s, designer Diane von Furstenberg revolutionized women’s fashion with the introduction of her now-iconic wrap dress. The fashion designer’s vision was to help busy working women look stylishly pulled together faster, and she succeeded. Her eponymous brand is still thriving. Despite their products’ differences, Steve, Elon, and Diane share an entrepreneurial spirit founded in good solid leadership principles and fueled by the hallmarks of a visionary leader: big-picture, forward thinker; innovator; inventor; someone out to impact the world with a compelling vision all their own and in ways never before seen. 

Visionary leaders rule with this vision, sharing it with the organization and galvanizing teams to push it forward in an inspirational rather than authoritarian style. True visionary leaders give employees the freedom to come up with the best route for bringing their vision for the company to life, all with the deep understanding that it takes great discipline and commitment to see their vision to fruition. 

Qualities of a visionary leader.

You don’t have to be a CEO to be a visionary leader. This management style can exist in all levels of leadership, whether you’re a department head, VP, or even a kid who came up with a clever strategy to attract more neighbors to a weekend lemonade stand. Here are some of the qualities all visionary leaders share. 

  • Persistent. They know it will be challenging to execute their vision. But this is what drives their determination to succeed. Hurdling obstacles along the way makes the victory of success so much sweeter. Visionary leaders know how to navigate challenges and push through them, keeping the team on course by leading with a “never-give-up” attitude no matter how tough things get.
  • Inspirational and magnetic. For the visionary leader, success is a goal best shared. They know that the talents and contributions of many make success more meaningful. They understand that one of the most effective ways to bring out the best in their teams is to tap into their emotions and ignite their passions. Belief in the project goes hand in hand with supporting and believing in the team’s ability. 
  • Open-minded. Visionary leaders are natural pivoters and hold multiple perspectives. They are able to keep the big picture in mind but remain flexible in how to get there. A flexible mind helps them navigate challenges more effectively. They are adept at harnessing the power of resources and out-of-the-box creative solutions to turn setbacks into success.
  • Innovative and imaginative. They allow themselves to dream as big as they want and encourage their teams to do the same. Their imagination is what sets them apart, what got them to where they are, and what drives company culture.  
  • Bold. Daring is in their DNA. They have the courage to take risks and the strength to endure uncertainty. They would rather fail trying than not try at all. Visionary leaders recognize the value in failure in that it can test a team’s resilience and ability to move on and grow. 
  • Collaborative and communicative. They are inclusive, inviting others to be a part of the vision. They attract talent who are passionate and who are inspired by the big picture to create their best work. 
  • Goal-oriented and resolute. Nothing deters their razor-sharp focus. And their optimism serves as a firm anchor when faced with setbacks. Rather than dwell on difficulties, they encourage teams to embrace them as part of a journey to greatness. 
  • Well-organized. Visionary leaders mobilize teams or followers to work toward their vision and they need structure and organization to guide them. Having a vision for the company means they have mapped out a path in their mind, and they need to communicate this path to their employees in order to set plans in motion. Strong organization skills keep the communication flowing and the work on track. 
  • Responsible. Visionary leaders take chances and make sacrifices. But they also take responsibility for their actions and their vision. For instance, they are keenly aware that in order to keep a project moving forward, they need to ensure their team is motivated to do the work and are rewarded for their part in bringing the leader’s vision to life.  
  • Enthusiastic. They are passionate believers in their ideas and goals and have the drive to make them happen. Their enthusiasm is essential for rallying support from the teams they lead. 
  • Emotionally aware. They are aware of their emotions and aware of the feelings of others. Their empathy fosters connection and inspires teams to recognize and see the value in their contributions. By trusting in their teams and establishing a culture of trust, visionary leaders are trusted in return.

Why is visionary leadership important in business?

While there are plenty of different leadership styles that can be effective in running a company or organization, there are also certain leadership skills that can change the game. For any business to be successful, its leader must be passionate, strong willed, and equipped with the necessary knowledge to achieve long-term goals. Visionary leaders possess these foundational traits of the trade but have even more to offer. They have the keen ability to both envision a company’s future and to rally employees around a shared vision. A visionary business leader understands that inspiring and motivating employees to embrace the discipline and creativity required to make this vision a reality in turn cultivates greater productivity. And that is excellent for business. 

How to gain visionary leadership skills.

Interested in learning visionary leadership skills you can take to work? Or other leadership skills you might apply to your field of study? You can start by applying basic leadership skills at your current job, like honing your writing and public speaking abilities or practicing empathy, consistency, assertiveness, and follow-through. If you want to fine-tune and upgrade your leadership skills in a more structured setting, WGU offers several online degree programs designed to develop a variety of leadership skills. Also, if you enroll in a WGU business degree program, you can talk to your academic advisor for recommendations on classes where the chance to build your visionary leadership skill set is part of the curriculum. Get started today so that one day you can lead the way! 

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