Becoming a Great Leader – Part 1: Vision


A great leader is someone people look to and depend on for guidance and vision. Someone who meets adversity head on and pulls others up to higher levels.

If you’re starting to sweat a little because this seems like a lofty goal, that’s okay. It is a lofty goal – which is why few people ever fully reach it! But with the right attitude and action steps, you can become a great leader.

Take this time as an opportunity to improve yourself and reach for excellence. Reflect on areas you can get better at, so you can increase your sphere of influence.

To become a great leader, use this series as a catalyst to expand your own personal skills and abilities. In turn, you’ll increase your employees’ efficiency and effectiveness.

Let’s get real

Leadership skills are one of those topics that everyone talks about—but few actually apply.

Are you determined to be different? Becoming a great leader requires a burning desire to lead, and lead well. Once you’ve made the decision to lead well, it’s time to build your foundation.

To become the best manager (increasing workplace efficiency, communicating effectively with your employees, developing and training others, and properly motivating those in the workplace) you must establish your own foundation for great leadership.

Everyone has the capacity to lead, and many are put into the position of leadership. The difference between successful leaders and those that are not is simple: successful leaders lead well.

One simple word changes everything!

Anyone can lead

Your goal as a manager—in your specific position of leadership—should be to lead well for the greater goals of your team and your company as a whole.  

As a manager, you are the captain of your workplace vessel. Your employees need you to be your best at the helm. It’s time to use your talents and abilities to out-sail and out-perform those in the sea around you by acknowledging the areas you can improve in.

“A truly great leader… will take their people places they would NEVER have gone on their own!”

– David Long

And then actually implement the following ideas. Most people know what to do, but knowledge without application is useless.

So back to the question: “How does one lead well?”

First, understand that to be a leader, you must have followers. But what makes people want to follow someone?

It’s vision

Strong leaders believe in something bigger than themselves. They embody a powerful, vivid, and compelling vision, causing their followers to go all in.

In your position as a manager, your employees “have” to follow you. But what if they wanted to follow you? Can you imagine the difference it would make?

People are motivated by joining causes that have the ability to make a substantial impact beyond their individual effort. History is full of examples of people giving their heart and soul to a cause they believed in.

So the question is…

What would change if your followers believed in your vision? In your mission?

Imagine for a moment what would happen if your employees jumped on board with your desire to gain higher customer satisfaction, boost workplace efficiency, or increase sales by x amount.

The result would be incredible! And it’s possible.

If your employees can see the vision, how they fit into it, and respect how you conduct yourself in a position of power, they will want to follow and support you.

Are you someone worth following right now? Would you follow yourself if you had the chance?

You must have a vision

Without a vision, your ship sails aimlessly along the water’s edge with no destination.  Every team needs a vision, an end goal which everyone is striving to reach. A vision is the driving force behind what you are doing as a manager, and the goal your employees are working towards.

If you do not have a vision for your company, how can you expect your employees to fully put themselves into their work? You may have the best employees in the world, but without a vision to work towards, your workplace will stagnate.

One of the truest examples of leadership and vision is found in wartime. It takes a real leader with a powerful vision to persuade thousands of men to walk down a road that leads to almost certain death. 

Just before battle, at the very gates of hell itself, the commander of the army often stops to give one last rousing speech. It’s a speech with purpose: to give them courage, to steady their hand, and to ignite a fire of passion in their chests so they will not faint at the atrocities to come.

You know the moment

When William Wallace cries to his men, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”

Or when Aragon calls all men to fight in Lord of the Rings, “A day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day! This day we fight!”

Or my personal favorite, Winston Churchill’s address to England in the face of Nazi Germany, “We shall go on to the end… and fight on the seas and oceans…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be… we shall never surrender!”

These speeches on the eve of battle serve as a distinct way of explaining the vision that rallies all followers to the cause. And they all follow a similar pattern that is helpful for all who decide to accept the responsibility of leading well.

In all speeches, great leaders do 3 things:

  1. Acknowledge reality
  2. Ask for help and full dedication
  3. Paint the picture of victory

Acknowledge Reality

By acknowledging reality, leaders don’t sugarcoat the difficulties involved. They know the cost, and they admit that there is a price to be paid for achieving the vision. Instead of trying to downplay the dire situation, they focus their warriors’ attention on the glory of victory. In other words, they give them something worth fighting for!

As a manager, acknowledge the reality of your workplace. Be practical in what you and your employees can and cannot do. If there is a chance of failure, don’t hide it, but don’t let it be the focus. 

Be sure to acknowledge the current situation you are in. If they perceive you don’t fully understand the present reality, they won’t be inclined to believe your future goal is realistic and attainable.  

Ask for Help & Full Dedication

Once you have acknowledged your current situation and given them the roadmap for success, ask for help and full dedication—these are your employees! You already have your “army,” now is the time to let them know how necessary they are to the fulfillment of the vision.

No great leader goes into battle telling his warriors how expendable they are—instead, they focus on how each and every individual is vital for the success of the mission.

Paint a Picture of Victory

The triumphs of victory should be woven throughout your motivating leadership style.You should never skimp on emphasizing your final goal, the success for which you are all striving.

In fact, remind your employees of it often. Make it compelling, something each employee can get behind, a vision that they can be passionate about achieving. It should be clear, distinct, and enticing.

As a leader in the workplace, you need to be implementing these 3 steps. By integrating this pattern into your communication, you will garner your employees’ effort and dedication in a way you never have before.

These ideas are not just for use on the battlefield, they are tools to implement in cubicles, meeting places, restaurants, hotels, and wherever else you find yourself.

At the end of the day, people follow visionaries . . . So be a leader worth following by creating a vision worth achieving.

Selling the Vision

Now that you have a vision, you need to explain it in a way that persuades others to join.

First, you need to clarify the finish line. How will they know that they’ve achieved the vision? You need to provide measurable performance indicators for the success of your vision. 

In other words, develop metrics to track your progress. Do you want to increase output? Do you want to outsell the other divisions in your district? Are you searching for greater efficiency in certain areas? By developing key performance indicators, you provide your employees with a clear roadmap to success.  

Next, you need to create purpose for your employees. They need a reason why they should care about your vision before they will decide to become a part of it. Why should your employees get behind you in this new endeavor?

It breaks down into a simple question:

Why does this matter to THEM?

Once you have a vision, you invite others to participate in it by explaining WHY and HOW others can contribute.  Show them how they benefit by achieving the vision with you! You can have an amazing vision, but without proper explanation, you and your company will still be stuck at port.

Now, this step is NOT simply defining what the worker’s position includes—any training manual or hiring personnel can do that. It’s about communicating the importance of their job to the vision. Everyone has something to contribute to your vision, but often they cannot see it unless you paint the picture for them. 

Imagine every person wearing a big sign on his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.”

Explain how they are needed

Show them how necessary their job is to their team’s success. As a bonus, your employees will adopt a team attitude as they strive for the same goal. 

Jack Welch put it best, “The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.”

You need to do the same

Perfecting the balancing act between the big idea (vision) and all its moving parts (employees) is one of the clearest ways to become a strong leader. The steps are simple, but they take work to implement. With practice, these leadership tactics can be as natural as breathing!

Overall, you must first define the big picture and then break it down into how each individual can contribute.

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