We are very much in transition. We seem to be birthing a new way. Admittedly, births are a little bit frightening (and moderately painful), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen. We often find comfort in keeping things the way they are and may find ourselves resisting the new even when we know it needs to change. Which is exactly why we need visionary leadership. We need leaders who can see where we need to go, are willing to lead us through the changes and help us get to the new way of being, whatever that is.
In the latest Trends in Executive Development research, a biennial study that has been tracking trends in leadership since the early 80s, visionary leadership surfaced as the #1 most needed competency for leadership today and over the next few years. And, it is also the #1 most lacking competency in next generation leaders. We believe the need has risen to the top of the list (for the first time) because of this global birthing we seem to be going through. Since no one has been where we’re going, we need visionary leadership to help us figure it out.
Imagine for a moment that you are in a thick fog. Others are in the thick fog with you. You are wandering around, trying to decide what to do because you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. The longer it goes on, the more chaotic it becomes and then you hear someone. The person sounds very confident and says, “Hey everyone. Come toward my voice. I know what to do. I’m going to get us through this. When we get out we will have sunny skies and food and drink and we will have a meal together.” You can imagine the sense of relief, right? “Oh good… someone knows what to do!” That is what visionary leaders do. They give us a sense of direction.
Visionary leadership is the main theme of our new book Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce. Once we learned that it was needed, we set out to find out, “Can it be taught?” It can. “Can anyone do it?” They can. And “Does it have to be an exciting industry to be compelling?” It doesn’t. But the vision itself does have to be compelling.
By 2025 Gen Y will make up approximately 75% of the workforce and they are changing the workplace from the bottom up. We can’t lure them with pay or coax them with retirement plans. They’re a hard to please bunch. They will only come (and only stay) if they feel like the organisation is telling an important story and if they feel that they can be an important part of that story.
They are insisting on work that is interesting, meaningful, and fulfilling. For them, we will need to have a vision for the organisation that is so compelling that they want to take the stairs two at a time on the way to work instead of on the way home. I realise that it’s easy for leaders to think this is mollycoddling, but I think it’s more than that. I think this group has a tremendous amount of heart and if you can capture their heart, they will work night and day to help your organisation succeed.
If you’re not convinced by that, then take a moment to look at your turnover numbers for this generation. They change jobs as often as most people take vacations. Sometimes they change jobs just so they can take a vacation.
It might seem daunting to come up with a compelling vision that will get your workforce wholly engaged, but here’s the good news. Your workforce will help you figure it out. In the book, we share a 6-step process for creating a compelling vision. Step 2 is Vet the Vision. The leader gets the process going and the best leaders make sure that they are engaging the workforce in the process of vetting the vision. Yes, it takes longer but the buying and connectedness gained from having the employees help pays back in multiples.
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.