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

“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 get them to pay attention. Those who hear it should 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.

(Photo iMAGINE – PhotoXpress)

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34 Responses to “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”

  1. GuyW Says:

    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. catarinaalexon Says:

    Pity there is such a dispute amongst leaders about the importance of having a vision, isn't it? How can you lead a company towards a lucrative future without conveying a vision that people can identify with and get passionate about achieving?

  3. catarinaalexon Says:

    That's true. But not all thankfully.

  4. Evans Chabala Says:

    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.

  5. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  6. Jose Antonio Says:

    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.

  7. catarinaalexon Says:

    Agree with you Jose Antonio. But a leader isn't a leader if he/she is not able to live the vision.

  8. Andrew Haddleton Says:

    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.

  9. catarinaalexon Says:

    Agree with you Andrew.

  10. keepupweb Says:

    Wonderful post Catarina. Without a vision, we’re truly lost.

  11. catarinaalexon Says:

    True Sherryl. Without a vision we are not in the drivers seat.

  12. Sorin Cosmulescu Says:

    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…

  13. Mohammed Says:

    The future's not ours to see , all what we can do is study the trends .

  14. catarinaalexon Says:

    Thank you for your opinion,Mohammed. However, the article is about conveying a vision and paint a picture of it that will make colllegues visualize it, be part of it and make an effort to achieve it. Not about clairvoyance.

  15. VINCENT AWALA Says:

    Thanks for this post. Yes leaders who have vision, live and communicate it to all members of the organization will always succeed.

  16. Mika Castro Says:

    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.
    My recent post סולידריות

  17. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me Vincent.

  18. catarinaalexon Says:

    Good points Mika.

  19. Virendra Kumar Says:

    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.

  20. catarinaalexon Says:

    Yes it does, Virendra. Haven't you noticed how you cannot anticipate everything that happens? And when what happens, say a world wide economic crisis, you have to adapt the vision to the crisis since suddenly other rules apply for instance for getting a loan.

  21. Susan Oakes Says:

    Good points Catarina. In any company unless someone provides the direction and gains the buy in from all you don't see growth. Also if a leader shares the vision it helps people fill more confident in their roles and contribution. At least that is what i have found working in companies.
    My recent post The Importance of Knowing Your Brand’s Attributes

  22. Dennis Salvatier Says:

    I've been told in the past that I would make a great speaker. My self consciousness would disagree, but the attributes you described are major. I think the emotional connection is probably the most important, in my opinion. It's what inspires and gives action.
    My recent post What Do You Listen To While You Work?

  23. Bindhurani Says:

    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.
    My recent post Tutorial for a crocheted and beaded ponytail holder

  24. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me Susan.

  25. catarinaalexon Says:

    Good points Dennis. If you are a good speaker or not I don't know. Hopefully you are:-)

  26. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me, Bindhurani.

  27. keepupweb Says:

    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

  28. catarinaalexon Says:

    Thanks Sherryl. Glad you agree with me. As you say, it's definitely a key part of leadership.

  29. Coretta Says:

    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

  30. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me Coretta. Not sure a person is a leader if he/she cannot inspire others. More likely a manager.

  31. Catherine Lockey Says:

    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.
    My recent post The New Google Smackdown: Bye Bye Over-Optimized Websites

  32. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad we agree Catherine.

  33. vincent mcardle Says:

    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.

  34. catarinaalexon Says:

    Thank you Vincent. Hope everything works out for the best in Ireland.

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