According to a survey of more than 400 companies by Oklahoma City-based Executive Development Associates, four of the top five most-needed competencies in next-generation leaders are the ability to attract, develop and retain talent; the ability to inspire; the ability to deliver results; and the ability to manage the stress and demands of leadership.
However, the number-one competency lacking in the next generation of leaders is the ability to create a vision and inspire others to follow that vision.
In a new book, Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce, EDA’s CEO Bonnie Hagemann and her co-authors, fellow leadership-development consultants John Maketa and Simon Vetter, offer a framework for visionary leadership built around four leadership issues: courage, clarity, connectedness, and culture.
A Four-Step Blueprint
Creating a compelling vision and engaging the entire organization to align itself behind that vision begins with leaders who embody courage, the authors write. Embodying courage includes but is not limited to taking bold actions and standing firm. The courage shown by successful visionary leaders also entails the courage to be vulnerable.
According to the authors, in order for people to sign on to the vision, leaders must forge clarity. Clarity is more complex than one might think. As the authors explain, in addition to vision clarity (the development of a clear and compelling vision), there is communication clarity (how the vision is communicated to the group); role clarity (who plays what role in implementing the vision); process clarity (what processes will and will not be used); and decision-making clarity (when and by whom decisions will be made).
The next step is to build connectivity. Leaders must build an emotional connection for each employee with the vision. This is especially vital with Generation Y employees, who want to find meaning in their work and will go someplace else if this meaning is missing from their current workplace.
The final objective of a leader who wants to inspire organizations to unite behind a compelling vision is to shape culture. As the authors write, organizational culture “consists of an organization’s shared values, symbols, behaviors and assumptions,” the authors write. “Simply put, organizational culture is ‘the way we do things around here.’” Because culture has a major impact on an organization’s ability to reach its vision, leaders must intentionally shape the culture to fit the vision, the authors write.
In-depth case studies accompany each of these four elements of the authors’ blueprint. For example, Todd Bastean, CEO of Bunge North America, is an example of a leader who displays both the boldness and vulnerability components of embodying courage. When he became CEO in 2013 of one of the largest business units of agribusiness giant Bunge Limited, Bastean made “bold changes in leadership, acquisition, divestitures and a large-scale reorganization,” the authors write. “But Todd’s personal leadership began to shine brightest in his courage to be vulnerable.”
For example, Bastean tells his employees the deeply personal story of his uncle’s death in an industrial accident, a childhood event that inspired his Stand Up to Safety program. More than just a workplace-safety initiative, the Stand Up to Safety program is at the heart of Bastean’s vision for his company: “Zero incidents throughout the organization — nothing, nada, not one incident would be tolerable,” is how the authors describe the vision.
As Hagemann, Maketa and Vetter demonstrate, motivating an organization to commit itself to the right vision requires careful leadership from the top of the organization, which makes their four-step blueprint in Leading with Vision a valuable tool for leaders looking to inspire their people and lead their organizations to a successful future.