4 Ways to Be a Visionary Leader in the Digital Age
It has always been important for leaders to establish vision to inspire their teams and lead them to success. But with the coming age of automation, it’s going to be even more important that leaders win both their team members’ heads and hearts.
Why? Because as mundane, administrative tasks become automated, workers will be freed up to spend more time on tasks that require uniquely human skills like creativity, problem solving, strategizing, and collaboration.
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This kind of high-value work will require leadership that does more than motivate workers to check tasks off their to-do lists. Workers need to feel passionate, a sense of ownership, and pride as they make meaningful contributions.
In a recent webinar, Alex Shootman, Workfront CEO, challenged leaders to define a vision that will help connect team members’ work to what really matters:
"My challenge for any of us embarking on an automation project is: what’s the vision that we have for the project? If you don’t take the time to build one, the fact of the matter is you’ll only ever have your team’s head—you’re not going to have your team’s heart."
Here are Alex’s four steps to establishing that quintessential vision.
1. Lead with Hope
The ideal vision takes the focus away from the leader and day-to-day tasks, allowing workers to strive for something bigger—something that is meaningful and that clearly contributes to the company’s overall goals.
When you lead with hope, you must truly believe that the team has the capacity to improve not just their immediate group, but that they can impact the larger department and the company as a whole.
Help your team understand that it’s possible to accomplish any task that arises, and that what they do accomplish ties back to a greater goal. Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., is a Gallup senior scientist who researches hope’s role in the workplace. He defines what it means to help a team focus on hope:
"To take advantage of hope in the business world, leaders must make goals meaningful, strategize hope and plan for ‘what ifs,’ and help employees understand that they can use hope to make the workplace better."
Cultivating an attitude of hope not only helps boost morale, but it is also responsible for 14% of productivity at work.
2. Talk About Extraordinary Goals
With a sense of hope, a team can talk about extraordinary goals in a way that frames them in the realm of possibility, leading them to aim higher and accomplish more.
In 1961 when President Kennedy challenged NASA to send a man to the moon, he set an ambitious goal: to do it by the end of the decade. The goal had a specific and rigorous timeline—it was extraordinary. But within a year, NASA sent the first two American astronauts into space. In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts made Kennedy’s goal a reality when they walked on the moon.
By setting lofty goals, leaders inspire their teams to do more. They spark a vision that captures workers’ passion and drives them to reach their fullest potential.
3. Include Things that are Attainable
Likewise, great leaders recognize that always striving for unattainable goals is depressing and can debilitate a team. When goals are so lofty that they aren’t realistic, team members will feel burnt out, overwhelmed, and even manipulated—anything but motivated.
Attainable goals can work in tandem with extraordinary goals when they become realistic milestones that help a team on its way to accomplishing bigger, overarching objectives. These kinds of goals keep a team motivated while still pushing it toward doing extraordinary things.
An easy way to set attainable milestones is to work backwards from a major goal. Break a goal of 5,000 sales down into milestones of 500 sales, for example. Milestones can also be smaller tasks that need to be done before a major task can be completed and can help with time and resource management.
4. Ensure it’s Clearly Communicated
Effective visions need to be clearly communicated to teams so everyone will be rowing in the same direction and workers will catch the spirit of the vision, inspiring them to contribute more and produce their best work.
Georgia Everse, a communications and marketing executive who specializes in helping leaders communicate their vision shares some tips for effectively communicating strategies:
- Keep the message simple but deep in meaning.
- Prioritize what’s most important to communicate.
- Include regular communications in daily workflows.
- Avoid corporate speak to be relatable.
- Use storytelling to paint a picture.
When a vision is clearly and easily communicated, you reduce the risk of complicating work, and you ensure that team members will know their role and understand why their contributions are valuable.
Visionary leadership is about helping people see what they are capable of. It’s about inspiring them to perform at their best and do more than just check things off a to-do list, but to feel passionate about their work.
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