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?

Are you able to paint a picture of your vision that makes people want to be part of it?

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)

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

  • 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" ( for more on this survey.

    It's time for leaders to lead again.

    • 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?

  • catarinaalexon  says:

    That's true. But not all thankfully.

  • Evans Chabala  says:

    I have posted an article to 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

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

  • 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.

  • keepupweb  says:

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

  • catarinaalexon  says:

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

  • 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…

  • Mohammed  says:

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

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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?

    • catarinaalexon  says:

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

  • 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

  • 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

    • catarinaalexon  says:

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

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

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

  • Lenie  says:

    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.

  • tuhinmech  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you like my article, Tuhin. Leadership is a huge concept that needs to be covered in a book, if not a series of books. That's why I write articles ononly one aspect. If you search on leadership on the right side you will find a lot of articles on the subject.

  • catarinaalexon  says:

    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.

  • bethnieb  says:

    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…

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad my article came as a great reminder, Beth.

  • Jeannette Paladino  says:

    A leader has to have a vision for the future of the company and communicate it to employees in a way that they embrace it wholeheartedly. The leader envisions — the employees execute the vision. That's where the breakdown often occurs because so many companies treat their employees badly there is not even a 50% chance of achieving the vision.
    My recent post Are Social Media Search Engines More Relevant Than Google?

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad, but not surprised, you agree with me Jeannette. Good point you make about many companies treating their employees badly and the negative impact that has on achieving the vision.

  • Laurie Hurley  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Such boards are a way of inspiring ourselves, Laurie.

  • Susan P Cooper  says:

    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. :-)
    My recent post Marshmallow Sheep: Recipe

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad, but not surprised, we agree Susan. The points you make I agree with completely.

  • boomeresq  says:

    In my life experience, the ability to devise, articulate and "sell" a vision is the thing that separates a leader from a manager.
    My recent post The Bernice Pauhi Bishop Museum — Honolulu, Hawaii

  • JeriWB  says:

    I can speak from my usual perspective as one shaped by being a teacher in public schools. America lacks a vision for what school in the 21st century needs to be like and it clearly shows. School administrators too often forget to inspire, which only exacerbates the number of teachers leaving the profession.
    My recent post All for Show: Syllabic Poetry by JeriWB #CreativeWriting

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Jeri, I honestly have the impression that's how it works with schools all over the world. They are all focused on the short term and forget the important long term scenario. Inspiring pupils suffer as a result.

  • Tim  says:

    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

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you are able to lead yourself an paint a vision of the future that inspire you, Tim.

  • cheryltherrien  says:

    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.
    My recent post #Burpee Garden Time Planner: App Review

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thank you, Cheryl. Agree with the points you make. One of the major obstacles is that far too many managers regard themselves as leaders and hence fail to make their staff be part of their vision.

  • Sandy  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Sandy, you don't need to have a company to lead. You can lead yourself and people in all areas of life. Being a parent should ideally be leading your children as outlined in this article. Anyone can give orders, but only leaders lead. And it makes a huge difference when it comes to results.

  • yearwoodcom  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thanks Debra. Glad we agree. If a leader can't make people want to be part of the future and make an effort is he/she a leader? How many employees would stretch themselves for achieving something they don't see themselves as a part of and believe in?

  • akandrewwriter  says:

    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

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thank you, AK! Love what you write about the trick is to have people believe that the scary parts are nothing to be afraid of but opportunities.

  • patweber  says:

    Gosh don't we all KNOW people like this? But why do some of us have difficulty with it? I think you hinted at it Catarina when you said, "There’s no need to worry about laying out the vision in details, it’s the direction that counts." Very succinct. Get inspired with your vision and then move toward it. Thanks.
    My recent post 5 Scripts to Help Introverts Survive – and Even ENJOY a Networking Event – Part 2

  • jankedonna  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Well stated, Donna. Conveying our vision to others and ourselves is fundamental.

  • Paul Graham  says:

    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.
    My recent post The Friday 13 Double Take Photos

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you agree with me, Paul. Good points you make.

  • Welli  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      True. But a dream wall is different from someone being able to convey a vision that others believe in and want to be a part of.

  • MadSaleswoman  says:

    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!

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Stephanie, wouldn't the world be a better place without all those "leaders" who are in fact managers? Why did a business dictionary in the US decide that leader = manager? It resulted in a world full of leaders:-)

  • Michele Harvey  says:

    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.

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thank you, Michele. Don't you think it's far easier to motivate ourselves by usinig a vision board than making others picture the future you aim for and make them want to make an effort to achieve it?

  • andleebakhlaqkhan  says:

    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

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Thank you, Andleeb. Personally think the problem in your country is that extremists are too good at painting a picture of the future they aim for and getting people to follow them.

  • Meredith Wouters  says:

    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.

  • Arleen  says:

    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.
    My recent post How to Launch a Successful Publicity Stunt Like Placing a Mustang Atop of The Empire State Building

    • catarinaalexon  says:

      Glad you agree with me, Arleen. Good point about the importance of vision that elevates the energy, enthusiasm and passion.

  • catarinaalexon  says:

    Glad you agree with me Vincent.

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>