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Vision in Leadership – How can we Let it Shine?

Revisiting ClintonThis is part 2 of our series about the Leadership Mindset. In part 1, we described the four essential elements of leadership. We introduced the former US president Bill Clinton who gave a most concise and yet comprehensive description. “Leaders”, Clinton said, need to … clearly articulate a vision of where they want to go”. 

The First Four ElementsTaking Clinton’s definition, we can distinguish four main elements in leadership:

  1. VisionClearly articulating and uplifting view of the future.
  2. PlanningDeveloping a realistic strategy.
  3. EngagementAttracting talented and committed people.
  4. ResilienceResponding effectively to unforeseen problems.

Passion, vision and missionSo let’s focus on the element of Vision first. It’s obvious to most of us, that to lead people anywhere, the minimum requirement is that you have to know where you want to go. But where does that vision of a better world come from? The concept of Vision is related to three other concepts: passion, mission and personal history. Someone’s passion is what they really enjoy doing. Their passion is what they love so much, they may forget to eat or even go to the bathroom when they are doing it. Their vision is an image of an ideal world in terms of what they are producing with their organisation. In the early 80’s, Microsoft’s Bill Gates’ vision was ‘A computer on every desk and in every home’. At the time this was an ideal that was considered impossible by many. Today we not only have a computer on our desk but in our pocket as well. Ideally the vision is connected to someone’s passion. Their passion energizes their vision.Someone’s mission is what they – themselves or their company or their group – want to contribute to bringing that vision, that ideal, closer to reality. Their mission is the role they want to play in making the vision come true. Here we can see that awareness of your vision is very helpful in understanding your mission. In a sense, your mission is your vision put into practise.And then there is your personal history. Experiences that have formed you. From your personal history you bring skills, attitudes and interests that are part of your leadership style. The director of our local soup factory, here in Nijmegen, once told me: “I was lucky in that I liked soccer. My predecessor liked golf, so he couldn’t talk about his hobby with the workers. But I could always connect with them talking about the latest soccer matches, especially the ones of the local club”.A great example of ‘envisioning’ is offered by the famous British entrepreneur Richard Branson. When thinking about a new company, Branson asks himself one simple question: “How will this product make people’s lives better?” Then, in his mind’s eye, he takes a blank canvas and he starts painting a picture of the new company and what it does. 

Envisioning in MindSonar termsMindSonar measure mindsets. Where do we see vision, or the lack of it, in a MindSonar profile? How does this leadership quality translate to meta programs (thinking style elements) and Graves drives (value types)? ‘Future’ and ‘Towards’ thinkingIn terms of meta programs (thinking styles) crucial elements in vision are future and towards thinking. To be able to communicate a vision, the leader needs to not only look to the future but also decide that they sincerely want to move towards that future, rather than what they want to move away from. They need to set a direction based on where they do want to go. The sincerity of their wanting to move towards a certain better world, depends on the connection with their passion and their personal history.

A good example of the leadership effects of towards versus away from thinking, is the Brexit drama in the UK. The ‘brexiteers’ were, broadly speaking, glorifying the – as i turns out pretty much impossible – restoration of the British Empire and all the great things that would that result from it: freedom, pride, prosperity and safety. Mostly a strong towards orientation. The ‘remainers’, those who wanted to stay in the European Union, were talking about problems that might arise from the Brexit, things that they wanted move to away from: losing European markets, being in violation of international law and being isolated. Part of the reason why the brexiteers won, is the fact that their towards arguments carried a more positive sentiment with them. There were plenty of exceptions on both sides. But the trend was clear, and the Brexiteers won. To the detriment of those who voted for them, but nevertheless, they won. This same effective towards orientation is recognisable in many populist movements. ‘Matching’ thinkingAnd of course a leader needs a positive, enthusiastic feeling that they can communicate when talking about the vision. That feeling can only come from a focus on what is good, safe and just (meta program matching), not from a focus what is bad, dangerous and unjust (meta program mismatching). Matching, therefore, is another important prerequisite for presenting a strong and resonating vision.‘Kinesthetic’ thinkingIn terms of sensory modalities (seeing, hearing and feeling) the uplifting vision is a mix of visual (image) but also kinesthetic (feeling) experiences. The visionary leader cannot communicate their vision purely rationally. They have to bring it to life with feeling.

‘Internal reference’ thinkingAn obvious aspect that we haven’t discussed yet, is believing in your vision. It almost goes without saying, that a leader needs to believe in the better world they want to create. So here they would need internal reference as a thinking style. Internal reference means: I believe in my own criteria; I believe I am right. The opposite is external reference: I believe in your criteria; you tell me what’s right. You will most probably agree with me, that ‘You tell me what is right’ does not support presenting a resonating vision…‘Internal locus of control’ thinkingAnother important aspect is internal locus of control, meaning: I believe that I can make things happen, I believe that I have a significant influence. I see myself more as a cause than an effect. The opposite, external locus of control, means: I don’t think I have much influence. I see myself more as an effect than a cause. Of course, a leader needs a strong internal locus of control. If they don’t believe their actions will make a difference, it’s not logical to lead anywhere. The most you can say about an ideal world from an external locus of control is: it would be great if it would happen, but it’s out of our hands, we’ll have to wait and hope for the best.Vision BenchmarkSo, in terms of what we can measure with MindSonar, we are looking for:

  1. Future thinking
  2. Towards thinking
  3. Matching thinking
  4. A lot of visual thinking
  5. Some kinesthetic thinking
  6. Internal reference thinking
  7. Internal locus of control thinking

These seven thinking style elements are the first seven elements of a benchmark profile for the Leadership Mindset. We can compare any MindSonar profile with this benchmark and look at similarities and differences between an individual’s profile and this benchmark.

So far, we have taken only vision into account. In the next articles in this series, we will be adding the meta programs for the other three elements: strategy, engagement and resilience.

To add ranges to our vision benchmark, let’s say:

  1. Future thinking > 6 – 9 points
  2. Towards thinking > 6 – 9 points
  3. Matching thinking > 6 -9 points
  4. A lot of visual thinking > 6 – 8 points
  5. Some kinesthetic thinking > At least 2 points
  6. Internal reference thinking > 6 – 9 points
  7. Internal locus of control thinking > 6 – 9 points

Leadership AuditWith this benchmark, focussing on vision only and disregarding the other three elements for now, we can do a first leadership audit. We can take any MindSonar profile for the context of ‘Leading X’ and then compare it with our vision benchmark. We can look at the similarities and differences to help us decide how strong the vision element in somebody’s leadership is, and even: how it might be improved..

The profile below describes Jonas’ thinking style for the context of ‘Being VeganMarket Director’. Jonas is founder and director of ‘VeganMarket’ (not the real name). They buy local produce and other vegan products and sell them through a website. Their claim to fame is a city wide fleet of cargo bikes with their logo on the carrier baskets. Jonas is wondering: ‘Am I cut out to be a leader?’ He started the company more or less as a hobby. Now they have 40 employees. Jonas sometimes feels out of his depth. He reports a whole series of obstacles he experiences leading VeganMarket.

When we check Jonas’ profile against our vision benchmark, we see the following matches and mismatches:

  1. Future thinking > 6 – 9 points = a mismatch with Jonas’ profile, although it is failry close.
  2. Towards thinking > 6 – 9 points = good
  3. Matching thinking > 6 -9 points = good
  4. A lot of visual thinking > 6 – 8 points = a mismatch with Jonas’ profile
  5. Some kinesthetic thinking > At least 2 points = a mismatch with Jonas’ profile
  6. Internal reference thinking > 6 – 9 points = a mismatch with Jonas’ profile
  7. Internal locus of control thinking > 6 – 9 points = goodSo in order to be a more visionary leader, Jonas could
    • Develop a stronger focus on the future and what he wants the future of VeganMarket to be.
    • Create more internal images and movies about the ideal world he wants to bring closer through VeganMarket.
    • Develop a stronger feeling of enthusiasm about the vision.
    • Strengthen the idea that he is right about the future and the possibilities of VeganMarket.

How he could develop that is a matter of motivation and coaching. But with this benchmark at hand a MindSonar Professional will have a pretty good idea of where to focus.

This concludes our second article on the Leadership Mindset. Next stop: strategy.

1 Comment

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