The best way to predict the future is to invent it!

future, invent, predict

“The most successful leader of all is the one who sees a picture not yet actualised. He invents the things which belong in his present picture but which are not yet there”, US political scientist Mary Parker Follett once wrote. And she’s right because if you don’t know where you are going and can’t see it, how are you going to get there?

WIIFM will capture hearts

Followers actually want a leader with a compelling vision of the future and research shows they respond to a leader who can articulate a vision reflecting their own aspirations. It needs to be engaging, capture their hearts and make them pay attention. Those who hear it should actually want to be a part of it.

So what does your vision of the future look like – what’s the image? When you make colleagues travel with you, what will they see? Will they be able to visualize it, remember and make an effort to achieve it?

Inspiration the name of the game

Great leaders provide inspiring visions and passionately believe they can make a difference by inspiring people to achieve more than they ever dreamed possible. You must be able to provide a clear picture of a change beyond the horizon with a realistic image of what could become. Only then can you with your attitude get people enthusiastic and passionate about playing their role in reaching your destination.

What does you vision look like?

Once all your colleagues have a vision of your aims and goals you can set out to reach them. It is a bit like the old saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, then for sure you won’t get there.” Warren Bennis says of vision: “To choose a direction, an executive must first have developed a mental image of the possible and desirable future state of the organisation”.

Make others want to be part of your vision

The best way to impact others is to convey your vision in a dramatic and enduring way. If you bore them, or they don’t really believe in it, the impact will be next to none. A company who buys the grudging compliance of its staff is practically not going anywhere while enthusiastic and participating employees are a crucial aspect of making a vision come true.

A vision should ideally be of long term challenging goals. The odds of realizing the vision may actually not be more than fifty percent, but the company must believe it can. So aim for something worthwhile that will make people stretch themselves to succeed. If not they will not make that extra effort essential for success.

Personify the vision & mission

You need to get to the stage where executives and managers can live the visions and missions, be seen doing so and constantly communicate them to their colleagues. And chances of that happening without a mental image is slim. It’s best is to create a noble vision that elevates the energy, enthusiasm and passion of everyone in the company.

And don’t forget to make everybody see a benefit in enabling the vision to come true. There’s no need to worry about laying out the vision in details, it’s the direction that counts. But do remember that a good vision will evolve over time. Having a vision can be a catalyzing force in our lives, but don’t expect to travel a linear path from point A to point B to realize it because no matter how good the vision it has to adapt to an ever changing world. Are you able to paint a compelling picture of the future that makes people stretch themselves to fullfill it?

(Photo iMAGINE – PhotoXpress)

96 responses

  1. You're absolutely correct, Catarina – if you have no direction you certainly won't get anywhere, and the vision has to be communicated in a way that ensures everyone understands it and wants it to happen.

    Richard Olivier – the son of the famous actor Sir Laurence Olivier – has written a great book called Inspirational Leadership (it draws on Shakespeare's greatest leader, Henry V) which really shows the importance of this.

    A McKinsey survey last year also pointed to the importance of articulating a clear vision and that people are expecting their leaders to be inspirational – have a look at my blog, " Leadership for the New Business World" (http://bit.ly/8JuxX) for more on this survey.

    It's time for leaders to lead again.

  2. I have posted an article to http://innovareblog.wordpress.com/ entitled “The future is HAPPENING while you are planning”. It is along the lines that the future is not a fixed unknown in the distant horizon waiting to be discovered. So for as long as what future the leader is inventing is to do with aspirations and fulfillments individuals/colleagues may experience into the future, without necessarily seeking to predict the means by which that will be achieved, then I agree.

  3. With respect Andreas, if you cannot make others understand your vision you are not communicating it very well. Most likely you are complicating it as opposed to simplyfying it. If people only feel there are no better alternatives they will reluctantly follow you. That's a huge difference from making people want to follow you.

  4. This is a huge challenge, that requires a lott of time and effort because the only way to really communicate a good vision is living it, work every day towards its achievement and stay focussed regardless of anything. This is a marathon not a 100 meters race.

  5. Most people want to be led and as you say, leadership comes from a vision.

    All too often, Vision statements for companies are a tick-the-box activity rather than genuinely creating a vision for the future for that business.

  6. I agree with you and the concept in principle.
    When I was working with a major motor car maker in Romania, during 14 month period of time I had the chance to become member of innovation dept. Creative Climate was terrific… I guess 85% of the dept members were able to invent future and make it happen by setting up implementation plans for new business projects.
    The name of dept was Vision 2000 then was changed into Vision 21. Every project was inspirational.
    Personify the vision & mission – This was true in practice… Now I still look for working in such innovative dept, and hopefully achieve that some day…
    Also agree with the phrase: “vision that elevates the energy, enthusiasm and passion”
    Nothing is easy, no new project can become reality with just standard steps approached…
    It requires someone with personal involvement, approach and self-denial, with free initiative and engagement in battle…

    And innovative work is going on!… relentless…

  7. I agree. Creating visions on your goals in life is a way to predict future. As we can see, looking at the future is a part of every people to create a bright side of it.
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  8. The key message I got from Caterina is the last sentence: "Having a vision can be a catalyzing force in our lives, but don't expect to travel a linear path from point A to point B to realize it because no matter how good the vision it has to adapt to an ever changing world".

    Does it also mean that as we travel in to the future, sometimes the Vision itself may have to updated.

  9. I like your point. A leader is the one who has a clear view of the future. With a clear image of the future, success is ours. All the success secrets are coming to this one idea.
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  10. Great point Catarina. Your advice that a good vision evolves over time is refreshing and definitely necessary. Engaging your employees to help shape your vision is critical too. Understanding this is part of what defines someone as a leader as opposed to a manager.
    My recent post The Rise of the Cyber Cold War

  11. Great post Catrina. There are several points – provide inspiration, conveying your vision in dramatic and enduring way and passionately believing -that lead me to the word "communication". I have worked in corporation where I've seen this fail miserably. I have the opportunity to speak with young people and I like emphasize these points with them as I discuss the importance of effective communication. I wonder how many great ideas have yet to be realized because a leader was unable to articulate his vision and inspire others to believe that it is possible because s/he believes it's possible.
    My recent post A Little Girl’s Eyes

  12. Very true Catarina. More than ever people crave true leadership. They want to be part of something that helps both them and their community evolve. Most importantly, people want to choose their leaders. Many people in the U.S. feel hopeless about the upcoming election since they don't believe they will be able to choose their next leader. Ron Paul could probably win the popular vote (if he was allowed on the ballot) but it isn't the peoples' vote that counts here.
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  13. a wonderful article about the need for leaders with a vision for the future. The present government in Ireland has a vision for the future. It is an Ireland which has met it's financial commitments as best it can with hard work and industry. When we have worked our way honestly out of our problems, we will advance to being a country which can be trusted and and to being a country which has a vision of prosperity and industry. But this vision must promise a more caring society for everyone.
    The previous leader (Bertie Ahern) had no useful vision which would inspire the nation. Also his personal views had no moral grounding. (Hence he believed it correct to allow himself to be funded by shallow, self-seeking admirers.)
    The principal obstacle to Ireland's progress now is the constant negativity being pumped into news items and opinion programmes. I don't know what the solution to this problem is but somehow the government must persist in getting it's objectives across to the nation.

  14. Catarina, this was a truly timely post – the quote "if you don't know where you're going, etc" is exactly what I'm working on this week as I'm moving to WordPress and setting goals for my blog.

  15. Hello Catrina!
    Nice article! Good leadership demands a number of qualities in a leader! And the ability to predict the future is one of them! This is true in all types of leadership! Even while choosing a government in democracy, we look for this skill in the candidates concerned! It is justified because a leader with no or less vision cannot guide his/her team in the right direction.

  16. Glad you like it Lenie. Do remember that being determined and persevere is what makes a person succeed. The world is full of talented, bright and educated people who have failed because they were not determined and had patience.

  17. I really found this article valuable, Caterina. I am working on copy for a new program I am starting and this is a great reminder to create a vivid vision of where the program can take people. The features and benefits do of course need to be clear and appealing. Now for a little inspiration…

  18. I love to create vision boards as a way to map out my goals and focus on what I want to achieve. I keep them in my office so I can constantly see them. Since I work from home, the only person I have to lead and motivate is myself! When I was in the corporate life, I was responsible for a large team of people and I like to believe my organized and positive nature was one of the reasons I was successful.

  19. How true. An envisioned leader is a process not an end product. To me, the part that many miss is the need to impact others and then connect them in some way to your vision. If it can be done in a dramatic way, it will endure. If you bore them, they won't believe in it, nulling the impact all together. Just my thoughts. 🙂
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  20. Too often people try and be leaders without the vision and that always leads to a disastrous end. Vision is the key. Start with how you would like it to end and work towards that. I apply this rule to my work every day and believe it is the only way to make things work without indulging in massive scope creep. Thanks again Catarina for a good article that can be related to many areas in life. Tim

  21. As usual you are spot on with your post. A great leader is able to convey their vision in such a way that others want to be a part of it. Steve Jobs comes to mind. He was able to produce products people did not even know they wanted. Apple fans wanted to be a part of that. Those who worked with him understood and chose to be there. There are not many leaders who have the kind of talent and vision it takes to make people want to be a part of that vision.
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  22. I may not have a company to lead, but I can be a leader in my own life and apply vision to what I want to accomplish.

  23. I love the title of this post. So many people in leadership positions find the very idea of inventing the future terrifying, yet leadership without vision, without imagination, isn’t leadership. Its not enough to tell people how to achieve goals, you have to be able to set them and set them high. I really believe the statement, “So aim for something worthwhile that will make people stretch themselves to succeed.”

    If you’re not stretching, you’re not really working and you’re certainly not living.

  24. Another perfect post Catarina. A leader has to have a vision, otherwise she cant persuade her people to follow her into the potential scary part of what might be coming, whether it's an expansion or a new product. The trick is to have people believe that the scary parts are nothing to be afraid of as hurdles are just opportunities etc. True strategic planning is a gift that not everyone has, but without it, there can be no vision.
    My recent post Go Tell It On The Mountain – from 101BOOKS.NET

  25. I agree a leader has to have a vision. Communicating it in a way that conveys a mental image the rest of the company can connect with can be a challenge. As someone who lived through many leaders' visions, the other challenge is connecting in a way that people can see steps to take toward the vision. No longer part of the corporate world, I now need to create a mental image for the vision of my personal future.

  26. Predicting the future by inventing it has great merit. In one way it is the mirror image of We know how history will treat us because we will write it. Agreed that the vision must evolve and be participatory in order to be fulfilled.
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  27. If you can see it, you can be it, hence the idea of the dream wall, where you put a visual of your desired future and it can become reality. I definitely would follow the kind of leader that can invent the future and make other people believe and want to take part in it.

  28. I agree with the concept of being able to inspire others through your vision, although in many cases people have become so disillusioned by the corporate machine that it hurts those who really do want to inspire. I've worked for two different "leaders" that called themselves visionary but didn't realize that vision had to be more about a mission that would impact others than themselves (with their reward being residual). I think when leaders are able to articulate a vision that is selfless but still garners results they will turn around and find a crowd of supporters propelling them forward!

  29. This blog post really resonates with me. Some people use vision boards to create an images of what they intend in their present and future picture. It is paramount as well, to really understand what motivates others so they see the benefit in consistently taking the needed action steps. So true as well that life is not black and white and paths are seldom linear. Thank you for your post.

  30. Hello
    Very nice post Catarina , with a little change.
    A person who have a vision and who can foresee future and show picture to others with everlasting effect is a real leader and a hero. There are many qualities mentioned in the post for a great leader like he should inspire others and have a grip on his vision that can hold others and keep interest with excellent communication skills.
    Unfortunately we are lacking such great leaders with a vision , specially in my country.
    After Quaid-e-Azam (25 December 1876 – 11 September 1948) who had a bewitching and ever lasting effect with his vision on majority of Muslims of south east Asia , who inspired masses to get a separate homeland to practice believes freely . He was such a leader with vision but after him we can not keep up good working going unfortunately.
    It was a nice post

  31. Very inspiring – I love the quote in your title. Leaders not only have to be able to visualize their dream, but also communicate it to others. That’s a leadership skill that’s hard to teach.

  32. Leaders of all types need to have a vision. If direction is not provided it is like being in a row boat and letting the water direct your path. Someone has to take on the role of leadership. The comment “vision that elevates the energy, enthusiasm and passion” is important whether you are a leader in a country or a manager in a business.
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  33. Great post, Catarina. Creating a vision is not as easy as it may seem. I feel that enthusiasm for the vision helps a great deal when explaining the vision to others. I know it helps me when I speak with clients or potential clients about their home or office. I agree, they want to know the end result, not all the details. Thanks for sharing.

  34. I love the title – how true. Having a vision can be a catalyzing force in our lives and you have good advice about not expecting the path to be linear. As I read this I kept thinking about the vision boards people create to focus on their personal visions. Could companies not adapt something similar? It could be pretty powerful especially if there was a way for employees to contribute to the board.

  35. Catarina, having a vision is one thing and I'm sure many leaders have a vision. The difficultly comes in communicating this and that's where a great many leaders fall down.
    I've been to many conferences where the keynote speaker talked about the importance of having a vision but once I left the conference I felt it had been a waste of time – lots was talked about but little left an impression, certainly nothing to act on.

  36. Very insightful post Catarina. At times I feel the challenge lies in executing a vision rather than creating one, but I try my best not to be bogged down by the uncertainty. Defining one’s goals should lay the foundation for a productive and healthy mindset. Thanks for sharing.

  37. What a great post.
    Although I agree with almost everything in the post. I do see one issue with this, and that is we must remember sometimes you should not reinvent the wheel. Sometimes things work because they work. I do whole heartily agree with the basis of the post which is inspiring people,
    Inspiration is probably the one connecting aspect of all great companies. A great leader knows how to lead, but also how to inspire those to follow them.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  38. Thank you for sharing an encouraging post.

    Leaders are forward thinkers – always one step ahead of the game.

    Visionaries need the skill of others to help them arrive at their destination. Nobody cannot do it alone.

  39. Those who are able to effectively convey their vision with excitement have the ability for greatness. You can’t get your best out of others if they are just walking through the motions. When people come from a place of optimism and excitement, they will do so much better. And even if you just work for yourself, you need to convey your image to your potential clients. As you say, this is really integral to all aspects of a successful business. If people know where they are going, they will be so much more excited to get there.

  40. A vision that's worth sharing, it seems to me, can only come from being connected with the heart. Otherwise the so-called vision lacks the life spirit (the soul) of the one doing the sharing. There may even be a contrived sense coming through the words. It's no wonder that some who speak about vision leave little, if any, impression on their audience. Lenie commented on this in her response above. I think of a Martin Luther King Jr. Now no one could say he lacked true passion. His heart and soul were in the vision he shared. That's why he was so successful in touching and engaging people. (Now these are just my views!)

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