What Is Visionary Leadership?
Visionary leadership is a management style that is often credited with driving a team forward and achieving results. A visionary leader inspires and leads their team, using long-term goals and aspirational ideas that help people see the end goal.
The concept of visionary leadership is about big ideas. This type of leader doesn’t shy away from trying something new and is always willing to break away from the status quo.
The term ‘visionary leader’ was first coined by Daniel Goleman, who identified six styles of leadership.
- Coaching – Nurturing team members and improving morale
- Affiliative – Being ‘one of the team’
- Democratic – Good for team cohesion at times of change
- Commanding – Ideal for fast decision-making from the team leader
- Pacesetting – Encouraging high performance and fast results
- Visionary – A joint mission to reach bigger, aspirational goals
Each of these styles has its own skill set, characteristics and features, with different ways to get results. Goleman suggests that a combination of all six is the best approach.
Of the six styles, visionary leadership is the most ambitious and aspirational. Visionary leaders are enthusiastic and passionate about their goals. They use their skills to motivate and inspire their team to show the same level of commitment to the same goals.
A visionary leader is confident and focuses on positive outcomes. No idea is too lofty and no goal too ambitious for a visionary leader. They believe that anything is possible with the right approach.
It is useful to have a mix of leadership styles within an organization, and visionary leadership fits in by driving the company forwards and aiming high at every opportunity. If an employer wants to implement change, perhaps by pursuing rapid growth or branching out into a new field, visionary leadership is often the best option.
A visionary leader takes direction from their managers and gets fully on board with the vision, using their natural enthusiasm to explore how the goals can be achieved. They then pass this enthusiasm and strategy down to their team with infectious optimism.
There are numerous reasons why visionary leadership is useful for business.
Aiming for bigger-picture goals often means that things must be done differently to how they have always been done. The enthusiasm and drive of visionary leadership encourage people to use their imagination and think outside the box, leading to innovation and progress.
Visionary leaders are always looking for the next big thing to help move the business along, and often create these opportunities themselves using innovative thinking.
Visionary leaders know that they need the support of the workforce to achieve their goals. Luckily, they have the communication skills and empathy to connect with colleagues and help bring the team together.
The act of all pulling towards the same goal is also a great way to bond. Under the direction of visionary leadership, the team can share successes and overcome obstacles.
As the team gains momentum and reaches milestones, the visionary leader uses this to prove to the team that success is inevitable. The boost in morale further bonds a team together, and as the team morale grows, performance often grows along with it.
Employees who work under visionary leadership are frequently reminded that they are on a bigger mission for change. They don’t need to get overly caught up in the finer details of work life because, as long as they are all pulling in the same direction, the minor issues are not insignificant. Of course, attention to detail is vital in certain situations, and this is an area that a visionary needs to keep in check.
A good leader will spot members of the team who pay attention to detail and will delegate finer work to them, to ensure that nothing important gets missed. But the influence of big picture thinking from a visionary leader stops people from getting so caught up in the details that they cannot move forwards.
Knowing and believing in a larger purpose or end goal can be incredibly motivating for a team. Individuals can go to work each day knowing what they are working towards and why. Their visionary leader has explained the mission with enthusiasm and passion, which helps drive the whole team forward with a sense of purpose.
This sense of meaning and purpose can improve job satisfaction and boost morale, resulting in a happier workforce.
If a company wants to drive change, visionary leadership is a highly effective method of achieving the desired outcome.
Visionary leaders set their sights on the end goal and make it happen, inspiring and motivating their team to pull together to do whatever it takes.
Visionary leadership doesn’t just do what has been done before. It innovates and creates new ways of working to change the outcome.
As well as the ability to implement change, a visionary leader can also rally the staff to get on board.
One of the biggest challenges of implementing change is convincing people that it is worth the effort, so a leader who overcomes this challenge is an extremely valuable asset for any business.
Visionary leadership has benefits for an employer, but it takes a certain type of person to deliver this style of leadership.
Although some of the necessary skills can be taught, many of the qualities of a good visionary leader are natural personality traits.
Emotional intelligence involves understanding and using emotions in a positive way. It refers to a person’s ability to regulate their own emotions and to read the feelings of others.
Emotional intelligence is different from cognitive intelligence, but it is just as important in a leadership role.
Emotional intelligence is a common trait of visionary leaders, and it helps give them positive influence over their team.
A visionary leader understands the emotions involved in drive, motivation, success and competition. They take the time to understand their team members’ emotional triggers and drivers, and use these to encourage and reward them.
Emotional intelligence can also help a visionary leader resolve conflicts and identify any unease or tension within a team. They have the emotional tools to deal with these issues as they arise.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, metaphorically speaking. It is recognizing another person’s thoughts and feelings about a situation, even if you don’t share them yourself.
By showing empathy with their team, a visionary leader connects with each individual, making them feel valued and seen.
Empathy, along with other soft skills, is particularly beneficial at times of conflict.
The visionary leader understands that people have different perspectives of a situation and they can see all sides. The visionary leader is diplomatic and tactful and can handle problems sensitively.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a difficulty or failure. Visionary leaders display clear resilience in their pursuit of the end goal.
They understand that when you have big dreams, there are bound to be stumbling blocks along the way. Their natural resilience rubs off on others, as they sweep their team along with enthusiasm and positivity, despite setbacks.
For an employer, the resilience that a visionary leader brings to the table is an essential factor in building a strong team that keeps up the momentum.
Enthusiasm is a loveable trait that manifests in enjoyment and a keen interest in a subject.
Enthusiasm is a powerful motivator to continue when things become difficult, and visionary leaders use it in this way to inspire themselves and their team.
Every leader faces challenges, and without enthusiasm for the role, a leader can lose sight of the end goal and bring down their team.
However, a visionary leader spreads positivity and enthusiasm, and their team reaps the rewards of this, as the enthusiasm rubs off on them.
When the team goals are as ambitious as those of a visionary leader, enthusiasm is crucial for driving employees forward.
A leader needs to be creative in many senses of the word. In a business sense, creativity can help them be innovative and find solutions to problems.
As a leader, they can think up creative ideas of how to grow and develop their team.
Visionary leadership relies on creativity to succeed, as the leader sees the bigger picture and how to get to the end goal.
The creativity of a visionary leader heavily contributes to their outlook and ability to focus on the bigger goals without getting caught up in the everyday problems that can hold other leaders back.
Most businesses have a corporate culture that encourages and nurtures creativity for these reasons and will greatly benefit from how a visionary leader uses creativity in their role.
The term ‘communication skills’ describes the ability to communicate successfully with other people using both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Good communication is an integral part of leadership and can make or break a team.
Visionary leadership relies on successful communication to bring a team together cohesively and help every member get on board with new ideas.
Not everyone thinks in broad, big-picture terms like a visionary leader, so their ability to communicate their ideas with the team and wider company plays a big part in bringing their ideas to fruition.
There is a fine balance between being too cautious and taking unnecessary risks. Visionary leaders make sure they strike the right balance and are naturally willing to take risks to get closer to their end goal.
Often the biggest advances in business come with risks. Visionary leadership relies on courage to take these risks to pursue the big dreams and ideas that will drive a business forward.
The combination of skills of a good visionary leader means that they are well placed to evaluate risk without letting fear of failure hold them back.
Visionary leadership is brave and innovative and can reap big rewards for the employer and the team.
As Daniel Goleman and other experts have identified, there are several ways to lead a team in business.
Of the six common styles that Goleman identified, visionary leadership is the most effective for a company looking to drive change and innovation.
However, visionary leadership is not the only way, and a combination of all six of these approaches is likely to yield the best results.
A visionary leader does bring certain qualities to the role that are incredibly impactful on the performance and morale of a team and a business. Their communication skills are put to good use as they inspire others and share their big ideas with the team.
Ultimately, visionary leadership is exciting, enthusiastic and aspirational. It inspires the team to take risks and think bigger. Without it, other leadership styles can seem flat and uninspiring in comparison.