Whenever anyone discusses the characteristics of a leader, one of the first descriptors mentioned is being a visionary. Having a vision and sticking to it, and thus drawing the right people around you who resonate with that vision and become your brand-evangelists. I always got how important visioning was to leadership, but I missed a key piece in how visioning most effectively happens in the first place.
Not Leading with the Outcome First
I used to think that visioning happened in the future. It makes sense, right? You’re having some self-reflective time as a business leader or in other domains of your life, and imagining what you want to create in future terms. How do you want your future to look and feel? What is the outcome you are wanting?
In fact, there are so many processes and visualization techniques to help you get clear about what you want and where you are going. They’ve often felt a bit empty to me as I now realize, while I was off in the horizon of my future, I wasn’t coming from where I’m really located now. I now realize it’s much more difficult to start from where I’m really at, and not skip this over or try to create this ideal virtual reality picture that I can then fit myself into. Instead, what does it mean to start with the breathing reality of where I’m really at right now, and then begin to vision from this place? Instead of starting with the outcome first, what if I began exploring what I feel in the moment? What lights me up? What challenges and scares me to grow to another level? And from here, what feels most alive in bringing more of me and my expression through my business?
How Do You Know When it’s Your Vision and Not Someone Else’s?
I worked with a client recently around creating a vision for his business, and this stumped him. He had all of these ideas and pictures of what he wanted it all to look like. The only problem, is that he felt like a corpse when he talked about it. There was no aliveness, motivation, or passion that fueled him. After some further coaching, it became clear that the reason for this lack of passion was that it wasn’t his vision at all. He was internalizing his father’s vision for his business, and projecting this into the future, as the business was passed down from his father.
I’ve seen this dynamic happen quite often, when a business is passed down the family lineage, and all of the expectations, shoulds, and the price tag of familial duties and obligations that go along with it. It takes a rare leader in this family matrix to be willing to step outside this powerful momentum, and be willing to ask these tough questions: What do I really want for myself? Is this business really my dream? If so, are there ways that I want to do it differently that more reflect my own voice, creativity and passion?
In this process, we both realized that he wasn’t starting from himself, but from a legacy that he was sleepwalking through in the business. And this showed up everywhere: from hating sales, to a disjointed web and social media presence, inconsistent management and customer service, and most importantly, no real passion to lead his business.
Visioning Through Subtraction, Not Addition
What I’ve been learning is that visioning is not about putting on another reality in order to unconsciously avoid the current one. Visioning is not about aiming for something that you should want, or could make you happy and content. It’s about taking a moment to deconstruct your real motives for why you want what you want. Getting in-touch with what really moves you? What nourishes you? What feels like you’re expression and creativity, especially if it doesn’t fit the status quo around you? A leader is willing to courageously look at their motives and subtract what’s been in the way from bringing more of themselves into what they do.