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Attaining Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

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Leaders have a responsibility to connect elements of their vision in the context of thinking, planning and actions. Connecting vision to action and then to expected results depends upon effectively applying “visionary thinking” practices and principles. Visionary thinking then provides the means for strategic direction and specific deployment actions.

Leaders need to define the larger picture of who the organization is, which defines its being, and what it does, or its mission. This also includes identifying what values are important to the organization, where it is going or its visional direction, and why it must go in the direction its leaders determine. It takes visionary thinking to develop necessary strategies, procedures and plans capable of linking these elements in a way that moves employees and the organization forward.

It is no accident that visionary leaders generally become an organization’s best teachers and create definite linkages between values, vision and mission. They make communication the cornerstone of the organizational culture, and inspire members to embrace, actively work toward and successfully attain the shared vision.

The need for organizational change and sometimes a new course or direction is often not clear to management and/or the workforce. Visionary thinking works to integrate a strategic direction of an organization to a long-term destination, which then sets into motion various key elements and processes that work together to effect necessary changes. From a visionary standpoint, it is the leader’s primary responsibility to set the context for needed changes and present compelling reasons why management and employees alike should accept the challenges that the changes represent.

If the need for vision-related change is not clearly communicated in an organization’s strategic direction, then the value of planned strategies, goals, objectives, as well as the vision driving the intended changes will ultimately come into question. If the rationale behind particular changes is not thoroughly understood, the changes will be resisted. Then either nothing happens, or employees will only demonstrate superficial compliance.

Leadership is defined by recognizing the need to change, communicating this need, and accomplishing necessary incremental changes through the actions of employees. To align and communicate leadership expectations and responsibilities, terms such as vision, values and mission help get the attention of organizational employees to spark a desire for embracing progress.

Attaining organizational results requires visionary thinking and planning on multiple levels.

Visionary Thinking Places Employees’ Best Interests First

Above everything else, the key to successfully implementing vision-related initiatives is for leaders to create positive environments for employees that allow them to embrace their unique talents and capabilities, feel secure, grow and prosper. Imparting the larger picture to employees in regard to organizational vision is one of the most effective tools for facilitating a solid commitment to new vision, values and mission. With commitment comes positive and enthusiastic action.

If employees “feel” secure about the promise of the vision and the importance of the mission they will begin to take ownership of them. “Feelings” are associated with the organizational values and values, tend to define the culture. Therefore, leaders should consider how well the organizational culture is aligned with their vision, mission and actions.

Visionary Thinking Focuses on Values

Values are what are most important in relationship to attaining leadership and organizational vision. They provide organizational as well as personal parameters and boundaries, and help to guide behavior, prioritize decisions, and justify the rationale for vision-related decisions. With organizational values as a foundation, vision is where the organization needs to go.

One of vision’s main functions is to provide excitement about the mission or destination. Visional communication that is value-based explains to employees how all the various vision-related elements come together and interlink to determine actions that accomplish the desired goals, objectives and changes.

Vision and Positive Workplace Culture

Culture and leadership are often considered two sides of the same coin. This is because leaders tend to first create positive cultures when they establish well-functioning and collaborative groups within their organizations and departments. Once these cultures exist, they determine the best criteria for moving their visional direction forward.

Incorporating cultural understanding into the “visional picture” and directional goals and objectives is essential to leading effectively. If organizational and workplace cultures become dysfunctional, leaders have to think of strategies that can be implemented to successfully manage transformational change in such a way that their employees can survive and cope with it. If leaders are conscious of the cultures in which they operate and function, those cultures will manage the desired changes.

Visionary Thinking Coordinates Resources

Vision, values and mission become the means by which leaders are able to guide, influence and educate their employees. Among these three factors, vision becomes the “magnetic field” that works to align people, efforts and resources, which tends to generate a desire to incorporate positive planning, action steps and motivation to achieve successful outcomes.

Visionary thinking focuses on the ways and means to coordinate employees and resources that will make necessary changes a reality. It considers interconnections between organizational values, vision, and mission that work to provide a new sense of direction or drive higher levels of performance. This forms the basis for determining where the organization needs to go and the changes that will help get it there. Visionary thinking helps to eliminate management processes, practices and procedures that tend to void or negate positive vision-related efforts, workforce momentum and work-related enthusiasm.

Visionary Thinking Should Not be Confused with Strategic Planning

Leadership is based on change, and change is about thinking differently and being creative. Strategic planning void of visionary thinking is nothing more than a superficial to-do list and may not detail the more in-depth pursuits needed to accomplish the real desired outcomes.

When vision, values, and mission guide an organization’s strategic direction, real change becomes the driving force for the development of specific goals and objectives. In this way, vision and values become more of a strategic plan than the created project plans that are developed to accomplish particular goals and objectives.

Leading vision-related change is typically considered to be a right-brain activity in which getting people to see the reasons why change is necessary and how to go about implementing it is the focus. Managing vision-related change is mostly a left-brain activity concerned with the “what’s and how’s” of action steps, and laying out a strategic course and direction.

Developing visionary thinking requires addressing and designing implementation procedures and practices around eight steps.

  • Establishing an immediate sense of urgency;
  • Creating a vision-oriented “guiding and directing” base of supporters;
  • Developing a separate strategy and vision for each smaller part of the whole;
  • Communicating the vision of change;
  • Empowering broad-based employee actions;
  • Generating short-term wins and successes;
  • Consolidating gains in order to generate further change;
  • Embedding new approaches, philosophies and practices into the organizational culture.

Taken in their entirety, these steps can be viewed from a sequential perspective, which moves from leading visionary change to managing it in order to complete sequential and incremental forward movement. The final four steps may be seen as forming a transition from “where we as a collaborative group need to go” to “how we’re going to get there.”

Visionary Thinking Leads to Action

Once the leader’s vision is defined and communicated, the visionary thinking process becomes officially translated into action. Strategic planning becomes more of a programming activity to support the leader’s visionary thinking. Within this context a leader can expect tension between leading and managing change.

Visionary thinking should provide a means to support the creation of a common focus. This is not to be confused with the development of a vision statement. A formalized vision statement may or may not provide the desired common focus and commitment for needed actions or changes.

When a leader’s vision statement becomes “etched in stone,” it may inhibit refocusing, redefining, and communicating a new sense of direction for achieving a different end result or seeking out new opportunities. Within the visionary thinking process it is more important to develop ways to “etch” the leader’s vision in employees’ minds and hearts, as well as to guide their behaviors and attitudes.

It is just as important to develop criteria that consistently provides for decision-making and prioritization that will accomplish the organization’s vision-related mission. Visionary thinking is about creating new categories for developing or grouping previously developed strategies. It needs to focus on defining functions and processes that take leaders beyond their normal comfort zones and limitations to view things from new perspectives and in new combinations.

Aligning vision with action should be the goal of vision-based thinking and strategic planning. Ultimately, aligning vision and action should move the organization in the desired direction.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Execution: Six Action Steps

Seven Productive Responses to Change

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

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Vision communication can be thought of as expressing an ideal that represents or reflects the organization’s collectively shared values. Numerous studies have shown that leaders who enthusiastically promote and communicate their vision tend to create positive effects on employee performance, attitudes and perceptions.

Specific core components need to be incorporated to effectively communicate one’s vision. These are:

  • Displaying a charismatic, forceful, animated and confident communication style;
  • Taking action to support the implementation of the vision, such as by serving as an exemplary role model;
  • Intellectually stimulating employees and building their confidence while continuously promoting the vision.

A well thought-out vision concisely but openly expresses a leader’s values and energy. In this way, vision content is communicated through imagery that generates a vivid mental picture of possibilities in relationship to existing realities.

When communicating their vision, leaders should focus on detailing its strategic emphasis and response to necessary changes. This includes outlining expectations as to the vision’s degree of control over those changes and its relationship to employees’ self-interests, as well as combining specific needs and values into a unified and collaborative effort.

Describing the Vision in Terms of Mission, Values and Goals

Communicating a vision effectively needs to incorporate components of the leader’s organizational mission, strategy, values and goals. Leaders need to communicate the vision in such a way as to integrate all these elements and place them into a visual framework that works to guide future action. Communicating a vision needs to motivate the setting of specific task-related goals, which in turn affect and alter performance.

It is essential to maintain clarity when communicating visional direction, with goals specifically detailed and explained. As part of this communication process, statements should include imagery that is specifically related to:

  • Performance
  • Achievement and improvement
  • Future time perspectives
  • Assumptions of personal responsibility
  • Initiatives and their acceptance
  • Anticipating future possibilities

Goals should be described in desirable terms that reflect ways to address challenges or the future orientation of the organization. For example, results-focused company goals may become the equivalent of task-specific targets such as “doubling production output within the next two years.”

The Importance of Modeling the Vision

While effective communication of a vision has a direct and obvious effect on performance, it is more likely to generate indirect impacts on motivation, acceptance, and perseverance in overcoming challenges and hindrances. Indirect positive results are realized when employees know the purpose behind the vision’s structure and understand its content, attributes and interrelationships from their own personal perspective.

As simply communicating a well-formulated vision is not enough to guarantee results, leaders within the organization must “walk the talk.” As part of the communication process, leaders need to reinforce the vision’s inherent values through consistent and animated positive role modeling as well as in the way they select and work with employees, acknowledge small changes and reward successes.

Vision Needs Visibility

Leaders often tend to articulate a vision taken straight from their organization’s strategic plan or their own personal planning process. When doing this, they begin to rewrite a modified or restructured vision and mission statement, or sometimes even find themselves devising and establishing an altogether new set of organizational values. Most times these efforts only muddy the visional communication process and leave employees confused. This in turn results in hindering the goals they desire to pursue, and effective ways to achieve them.

Communication of a vision does not rely on the underlying rationale as much as it does on making exciting possibilities “visible” within the organization. Leaders can accomplish this by openly communicating and stressing the following:

  • Inspiring with a sense of passion;
  • Employee well-being as a direct benefit of the vision;
  • Vision as an adaptive tool for organizational and group survival;
  • The necessity of building and maintaining work effectiveness;
  • Courage and a willingness to take a stand;
  • The rewards of ambition and perseverance;
  • Integrity, ethics and values;
  • Generating self-esteem and emotional stability;
  • Developing patience, endurance and tolerance for ambiguity;
  • Quality decision making;
  • The importance of stimulating creative thinking and innovation;
  • The intention to utilize all employees’ functional, technical and organizational skills in pursuit of the vision;
  • Priority setting as a necessary tool to accomplish assignments, projects and tasks in a timely and effective manner.

To align and communicate vision-related responsibilities, leaders utilize terms related to organizational values and mission, exciting challenges, unified efforts, and work-related incentives to help get the attention of employees. Doing this makes the vision concrete and tangible, and sets in motion key elements for reaching the necessary goals that steadily lead to its attainment.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $16.95 USD


Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

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A leader’s specific roles are determined through the four basic leadership responsibilities of directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Specific responsibilities will fall into one of these four categories. In leadership practice, one must master skills in all areas in order to effectively lead others under their direction.

Effective leadership is not happenstance; it follows specific rules revolving around these four basic areas of responsibility. Leadership skills can be learned and developed, even if an individual does not have a natural tendency toward leadership. More importantly, once learned and applied, these rules make a leader more effective and productive as he or she learns to work, direct and guide others toward the mutual accomplishment of goals and objectives.

Developing strengths in each of the four leadership roles allows a leader to read specific situations accurately and know what communication style is best applied.


Directing refers to how to keep work tasks and activities on the right track. A leader’s direction is what makes or breaks problem solving as well as determines the effectiveness of an approach to an assignment or task, the maintaining of momentum until its completion, and whether it is done by deadline. There are several ways to generate good direction techniques. These include:

Explain things completely and include the ‘why’s’

Leaders learn early on that the best way to gain support and trust from their employees is to explain all things in their entirety. Once people understand why something is important or necessary, they generally rally to the call of that which needs to be done or addressed.

Remain visible

Leaders understand the power of their presence at all times. Nothing deflates the workforce’s motivation and desire to achieve more than to be left on their own with no visible means of support or direction.

Objectively consider opposing points of view

Leaders consider situations, problems and solutions from various viewpoints, as the input from as many individuals as possible expands their capabilities to effectively frame their direction.


Coaching refers to when a leader knows where he or she wants to go and remains in control of the task but needs to lead others in developing a mutual support network. Coaching instills the desire to achieve and builds a dialogue bridge between the leader and those under his or her charge. This motivates employees and positively changes attitudes toward the work assignment. To do this effectively a leader must make an effort to:

Incorporate the word ‘we’ into all conversations

Effective leaders eliminate the word “I” because it denotes a singular rather than cooperative effort. The very meaning of the term “coaching” implies a team effort.

Listen for objections and areas of misunderstanding

Effective leaders who coach well develop the skill of eliminating objections by developing an effective dialogue and creating clear and concise responses.

Offer explanations addressing the ‘why’s, what’s and how’s’ of the problem or task at hand

Good coaching depends upon complete understanding. Motivation and confidence comes from understanding the expectations a leader has of those involved in a given task, assignment or problem solving situation.


Managers cannot be effective leaders unless they actively hone their supporting skills. People look warmly on leaders who actively work to support them emotionally as well as physically. When leaders actively work to support the people under their charge they:

Acknowledge individual efforts with comments of praise and positive support

Leaders are not afraid to say “thank you,” or “you’re doing a great job,” or whatever it takes to instill confidence in an individual.

Disclose their own feelings openly and honestly

Leaders are not afraid to reveal their “inner self.” Trust and loyalty are built on disclosing inward feelings, concerns and desires. Readily and honestly opening up builds encouragement and perseverance on both sides.

Never hesitate to ask, ‘What’s wrong?’

Leaders allow themselves to get into the thick of a situation or task, and are quick to share the decision making responsibility, but know when to relinquish control in order to gain extra participation and involvement.


Leaders know and understand their people. They know their strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates and frustrates them. Effective delegating relies on the ability to select the proper person for the specific task or role. Leaders develop good delegation skills by:

Briefing the delegate

Leaders leave nothing to chance when they delegate. When delegating, it is vital to explain exactly what expectations the leader has of the delegated individual.

Having confidence in the person they select

Leaders do not select individuals for an assignment according to their job descriptions or the salaries they command, they look for people with the skills, abilities, perseverance and motivation to get the job done and done well.

Not abdicating responsibility, but allowing individuals to decide a best course of action for themselves

Leaders monitor and weigh these individual decisions, but never advance their own leadership position for a particular course of action unless they assess it to be the best one.

Excerpt: Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)


You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Vision is the Faith By Which the Leader Functions

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Napoleon once remarked, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Adapted to the corporate environment, this statement might read, “Vision is the faith by which the leader functions.”

Leadership vision is one of the major characteristics defining a leader’s identity and, in the end, reputation. Trust in one’s leader and his or her vision enhances positive leadership outcomes, including overall improved job performance, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

A leader should generate a vision similar to that which inspires his or her employees in terms of clarity, challenge, and future orientation and inspiration. Employees need to be encouraged to share the leader’s vision and use it to guide their daily operations. The leader should motivate and empower employees to pursue and attain the vision set before them.

The question employees typically find themselves asking when a leader begins to define and implement action steps to attain his or her visions is: “Can we trust you not to abuse the privilege of authority?”

Credibility as a leader ultimately depends upon perceived vision-related integrity—namely, keeping one’s word and commitment, not taking advantage of personal influence or authority, or manipulating employees into embracing the vision the leader wishes to attain.

Leaders able to maintain a persistent belief in their vision are further considered extremely competent by their employees and seen as a contributing resource rather than force to be opposed.

The depth and detail of a leader’s vision demonstrates his or her level of expertise. Expertise is needed for legitimacy, employee respect and making the vision a reality.

As leaders are involved in decision making all day long, the quality of their decisions is compounded over time. Effective leaders who stand by their personal vision generally make prompt, wise and accurate decisions, even under unimaginably difficult and confusing conditions and situations.

Having a higher level of expertise makes a leader become very pragmatic. The leader tends to see things in realistic terms, which helps to identify and develop strategies that are able to cut through to the core of problems and negative situations relatively quickly. This aids in quicker vision realization.

Expertise is acknowledged and respected when a leader effectively projects his or her vision by explaining to employees the purpose, meaning and significance.

In addition to demonstrating decisiveness and expertise, clearly defining the vision and adhering to it serves the leader by enhancing team performance, generating healthy conflict, and driving overall change.

Enhanced Team Performance

Defining a vision through clarifying roles, goals, and the way forward is a proven means of increasing team performance.

The quality of the relationships employees develop (and the people with whom they develop them) is influenced to a large degree by inward assumptions about their leader’s vision. When those assumptions are based on faulty generalizations, misunderstandings or misinterpretations, the quality of employee relationships suffers.

Factors that contribute to forming strong relationships across differences are affected by individual sets of experiences, beliefs and expectations. Vision has the power to generate positive experiences with others and realistic expectations of them. It helps to develop and maintain positive social identities through a process of molding individuals into a unified collaborative unit that shares the same beliefs, goals and outlooks.

In essence, if properly communicated and then embraced, vision positively shapes the way employees and leaders interact with one another. It helps to generate a type of “social identity” or a perception of oneness through shared and valued personal and work-related characteristics and goals.

Vision Generates Healthy Conflict

A visionary leader is often viewed as one who makes up his or her mind, then remains intractable and unmovable in direction and expectations. This perception tends to generate conflict and resistance.

The extent to which conflict emerges is dependent upon two factors: the strength of the visional expectation, or agreement between employees’ perceptions of the steps needed to attain the vision and the leader’s own expectations, and the outward attitudes, expressions, or behaviors the employee and leader display in embracing the vision and its directional courses of action.

When the two factors above are addressed, where persuasion and a sense of purpose and positive self-benefit are emphasized, feelings of harmony and balance typically replace levels of uncertainty, insecurity and resistance.

When leaders experience conflict, their ability to reduce or eliminate it will always depend upon how well they communicate their expectations both initially and over time.

Vision Drives Organizational Change

The need for change is normally stimulated by an external “trigger” necessitating a modification of some kind. Connecting the vision to this needed change typically forces the organization out of its status quo, alters values and attitudes, and establishes balance and stability.

Acceptance of change and related implementation procedures is loaded with human-related difficulties. Vision enables leaders to achieve higher levels of “buy in” by overcoming employees’ anxiety over changes, their personal uncertainty and lack of ownership of initiatives and their outcomes.

Leaders understand the culture and capabilities of their organization, and use it as the basis for the embracement of visional change. This change is further effected by:

  • Selecting key employees who tend to display unique leadership qualities to be project facilitators or unit directors for various assignments or tasks.
  • Working with small groups of employees and mentoring them in various assignments and tasks as it relates to their visional impetus and direction.
  • Creating ways for those involved in the change to share successes and failures.
  • Using discussion group cycles or brainstorming to move their visional direction and strategic objectives forward.
  • Developing small-scale achievable targets in order to introduce change or build small successes from them.
  • Encouraging both themselves and their employees to be innovative as well as to engage in more productive behaviors in the workplace.
  • Managing change proactively, by focusing forward movement on implementation and action rather than formal competence building.


Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storms

Visionary Leaders Are in a Different Class

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storm

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Kemmons Wilson – Founder of Holiday Inn

Without personal determination and resolve, persistence and perseverance quickly dissolve under intense and sustained pressures, especially those that are created by adversity and failure. By anchoring themselves in the strength of their personal vision, however, the great leaders were able to withstand both internal and external pressures, strife and feelings of defeat.

This in turn, produced the fortitude and resolve to continue in their pursuits. George Washington’s personal vision of the creation of a republic is what gave him the strength to endure eight harrowing years of leading the American Revolution, and then more to lead the republic in its infancy as its first President.

Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) is another notable example of determination. As an entrepreneur from early on in his youth, he experienced a series of adversities and setbacks. “From the days when he first peddled The Saturday Evening Post as a youngster, through his founding of Holiday Inn, up to his creation of Wilson World and Orange Lake, he has stuck to his goals.” [1]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) faced overwhelming challenges when he initially launched his airline. He was immediately sued by his competition to prevent Southwest Airlines from making its first flight. He described his experience, “For the next four years the only business Southwest Airlines performed was litigation, as we tried to get our certificate to fly. After the first two years of defending lawsuits, we ran out of money.

The Board of Directors wanted to shut down the company because we had no cash. So I said, ‘Well guys, suppose I just handle the legal work for free and pay all of the costs out of my own pocket, would you be willing to continue under those circumstances?’ Since they had nothing to lose, they said yes. We pressed on, finally getting authorization to fly…

Our first flight was to take off on June 18, 1971 and fly between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. I was excited about being in the airline industry because it’s a very sporty business. But the regulatory and legal hoops enraged me. I thought if we can’t start a low cost airline and the system defeats us, then there is something wrong with the system. It was an idealistic quest as much as anything else.

When we brought the first airplane in for evacuation testing (a simulated emergency situation) I was so excited about seeing it that I walked up behind it and put my head in the engine. The American Airlines mechanic grabbed me and said if someone had hit the thrust reverser I would have been toast. At that point I didn’t even care. I went around and kissed the nose of the plane and started crying I was so happy to see it.” [2]

Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) went bankrupt during the Depression. “Faced with challenges that might have seemed insurmountable, he did what he had done since he was a boy—resolved to work hard and have faith in God. Others, it seemed, made up their minds to put their faith in Hilton.

He was able to buy goods on credit from locally owned stores because they trusted his ability and determination to one day pay them back. As the kindness of others and his own ingenuity helped him rebuild his hotel empire to proportions previously unheard of, he solidified his commitment to charity and hospitality—two characteristics that became hallmarks both of Hilton Hotels and of the man who began them.” [3]

Walter and Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft) started their company during the Depression. “ ‘She was the one that kept trying to get the money together to pay the bills,’ said Frank Hedrick, her nephew, who worked with her at Beech for more than 40 years and who succeeded her in 1968 as president of Beech Aircraft…

She said she didn’t give much thought to the problems of starting a new company at a time when most airplane companies were closing, not opening. ‘Mr. Beech thought about that,’ she said. ‘(But) he had this dream and was going to do it. He probably didn’t know how long the Depression was going to last.’

The first few years were difficult, she said. They sold few airplanes. ‘We had to crawl back up that ladder.’ ” [4] Olive Ann Beech overcame additional adversity when she took over the company after her husband contracted encephalitis during the Second World War, and again, after he suddenly died in 1950.

Joyce Hall (Hallmark) saw his company literally go up in smoke three years after he started it, when his business burned to the ground. “Hall was $17,000 in debt when a flash fire wiped out his printing plant. Luckily, he was able to sweet-talk a local bank into an unsecured $25,000 loan, and he has not taken a step back since. By the late 1930s, Hallmark was one of the top three cards.” [5]


Does Luck Play a Role in a Leader’s Success?

Are You Willing to Pay the Price to Succeed?

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose


  1. Success Secrets of Memphis’ Most Prolific Entrepreneur (Business Perspectives, July 1, 1997)
  2. Kristina Dell, Airline Maverick (Time Magazine, September 21, 2007)
  3. Gaetz Erin, Conrad Hilton’s Secret of Success (American Heritage People, August 2, 2006)
  4. Earle Joe, Olive Ann Beech Rose to Business Greatness (The Wichita Eagle, February 11, 1985)
  5. The Greeting Card King (Time Magazine, November 30, 1959)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Visionary Leaders Are in a Different Class

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Leaders are continually facing situations of constant change and adaptation. Creating and implementing a vision helps them determine ways to overcome associated roadblocks, hindrances and employee resistance.

As employees and leaders alike are typically subjected to a broad range of external and internal pressures, leaders are faced with the challenge of creating an appropriate or “right” vision, then persuading various categories of employees—from avid supporters to procrastinators and laggards—to accept the vision and work toward its fulfillment.

A carefully crafted leadership vision provides the means to generate new and more flexible ways of working and thinking as a group. It enables leaders to set a specific organizational course of direction, then pursue it by selecting, equipping and training employees focused on the mission and its objectives to carry it out.

Defining, selling and emphasizing the vision motivates employees to willingly and enthusiastically expend personal, emotional, and physical energy in its pursuit. Specific organizational goals and objectives are accepted and embraced because employees have “bought in” to the vision.

A leader achieves this needed influence by displaying a servant attitude and modest stance while conveying a “prophetic and profound vision of the future.” The vision and its associated direction are presented in clear terms that resonate with employee beliefs and values.

Related: Attaining Organizational Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

Once this takes place, employees begin to understand and interpret “the future” in the context of present actions and steps.

During the process, the leader presents his or her vision in contrast to the present status and state of the organization. Through the use of critical thinking skills, insight, intuition, active listening and positive discourse, the leader is able to facilitate and draw out employee opinions and beliefs.

This process allows employees to move from ambiguity toward clarity of understanding, which helps them to develop shared insights that result in influencing them to see the future state of the organization as a desirable condition worth committing to.

The leader begins to move the vision forward in an ethical and productive way, which implies seeking out what constitutes “the greater good” in regard to his or her employees.

During this process the leader constantly emphasizes how and why the employees will be better off as a result of open and positive leadership interaction.

The leader is then able to achieve higher levels of trust and commitment to the vision as he or she seeks personal growth, renewal, and increased stamina through these positive leader-employee interactions.

A Visionary Leader Is Set Apart from Others

Visionary leaders are in a different class than traditional mission-focused leaders. They seem to sense the unknowable, which includes seeing others’ unique talents and abilities. These tend to influence the decisions the leader makes, and help him or her shape a better plan for the future.

Leaders with vision are outstanding “conceptualizers,” nurturing their own and others’ abilities to dream and think beyond the ordinary and day-to-day limitations. They motivate across generational boundaries to enable employee groups to learn and embrace change.

As individual work environments often directly affect employee capabilities, visionary leaders know they can and should affect employee perceptions as to their own personal capabilities. An outcome of this process is that the leader can more fully prepare and build employee followers to accomplish what they are capable of and beyond.

The building up of employee followers results in the leader knowing their capabilities to the point where enhanced trust empowers them to accomplish necessary organizational tasks, assignments and projects.

Related: When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Visionary Leaders Are Motivators

Leaders with vision are extremely capable of motivating and instilling a sense of vision “buy-in,” desire, commitment and determination in their employees.

They have the innate ability to engage others in their direction. They also tend to be masters of determining their employees’ true capacities, which can be used to help seek out and overcome optimal challenges.

Inspiring the vision implies rallying employees to acknowledge a common purpose and path of direction in its behalf. Employees become motivated to behave in particular, positive ways. This true sense of motivation does not spring from external rewards or threats, but internally from individual desires of job and personal satisfaction.

Intrinsic motivation results in generating a sense of pleasure while interacting with others as well as while engaged in necessary jobs, projects and tasks.

Related: Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

Becoming a More Visionary Leader

Visionary leaders tend to transcend organizational expectations as well as the goals they set for themselves and their employees.

Leaders can become more forward-thinking, craft an inspiring vision and make it a reality by adhering to the following tips and strategies:

  • Generate movement by focusing on what is in the best interests of their employees from a long-term standpoint.
  • Motivate employees into action and commitment by satisfying their basic human needs.
  • Talk in terms of dreams and possibilities that work to inspire the vision.
  • Think in terms of a broader organizational view, as well as why it is important to forge a new territory of organizational direction.
  • Remain farsighted while working in shorter steps that focus on generating small successful outcomes.
  • Work to inspire employees to do things without actually sitting on top of them with a checklist in hand.
  • Integrate employee ideas to foster ownership in the vision.
  • Maintain the ability to see objectively and in an unbiased manner.
  • Do the right thing in all circumstances and situations.
  • Keep up with future trends and how they will effect the organization.
  • Make consistent and effective contributions to work tasks and team projects.
  • Continually inspire employee followers through speeches and pep talks that get them to work toward the vision.

Excerpt: Creating & Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Ability to Make Bold Strategic Shifts

with 2 comments

Herb Kelleher, Founder and Past CEO – Southwest Airlines

One attribute displayed by the great leaders was their vision and how it correlated with their self-beliefs, determination and conviction. Their vision dramatically contrasts with the commonly used vision statements utilized by most companies today. They weren’t linked to their current economic activities, but were life-long visions that defined who they were and what they wanted to achieve with their lives.

The great leaders were truly visionary and their visions served as a compass and as a source of strength, drive and determination during very difficult times. One prominent example is George Washington, whose personal vision of service to his country, and his acute sense of duty was a driving force that enabled him to endure many failures and disappointments during the American Revolution, and served him until his death.

The strength of Washington’s vision was compelling, and explains his prominence in history. Even among the great leaders, few were comparable.

As contrasted to many contemporary leaders, the great leaders developed influential and resolute visions, which contributed to their professional credibility and high levels of trust and confidence. There is evidence that the strength and belief in their personal visions allowed them to place their failure and adversities into the proper context, and reinforced their persistence to succeed. This strengthened their professional credibility.

Beyond the development of strong life-long visions, the great leaders were able to transition into visionary leadership that affected their creative and strategic thinking. It was said of Steven Bechtel (Bechtel) that he had “the ability to make bold strategic shifts, particularly when a company is doing well, is the hallmark of visionary corporate leadership, and Steve possessed it… He was so far ahead of his own people that sometimes it was hard to understand what he was really thinking about… It took vision. And that vision was 99 percent Steve.”[1]

The strength of many of the great leader’s visions created enduring ones that became deeply embedded in the cultures of their companies. “To a large degree, the measure of George Westinghouse could be found in his vision of ethics, work, and fair play that became embodied in the mission and vision of Westinghouse Electric and his other companies…

With the exceptions of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and a handful of others, few company founders have left such a defining mark on corporate culture.” [2]

William Hewlett and David Packard (Hewlett Packard), William McKnight (3M), Andy Grove (Intel) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon), all created corporate cultures that were strongly influenced and shaped by their personal visions.

The correlation of vision with critical thinking and intellectual honesty is illustrated by Fred Smith (FedEx), who commented, “The common trait of people who supposedly have vision is that they spend a lot of time reading and gathering information, and then synthesize it until they come up with an idea.” [3]

The question arises, how does professional credibility correlate with a leader’s vision? Without the bonds of credibility, trust and confidence, leaders will be unable to attract others to follow their vision, no matter how strong it may be.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) supports this belief when he stated, “A leader’s vision is only as good as the degree to which it is accepted by the followers. First you need to hire people with the potential to adopt the vision. The vision is an important part of the hiring process.” [4]

Arthur Blank (Home Depot) made similar observations when he said, “You need a leader with a vision who can inspire people, someone who will hire and surround himself or herself with people who are even smarter than he or she is, and then give these people the financial and human resources they need to be successful, and the sense of responsibility that goes with that.” [5]

Conversely, Al Dunlap (Sunbeam) was compelled to offer key managers incentives, such as extravagant salaries and bonuses to execute his plans. He was unable to attract others to follow his vision without bribing them.

Most leadership development programs begin with the concept of vision and its importance. Effective leaders do need to have a vision, but there is a difference between having a vision statement, and being a visionary leader driven by his or her vision. One is tactical. The other is strategic.


  1. History of Family Leadership — Stephen D. Bechtel Sr. (Bechtel Company Website) Accessed March 31, 2010
  2. Skrabec, Jr., Quentin R., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p 222
  3. Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine) October 1, 1986
  4. Gibson, Jane Whitney, Blackwell Charles W., Flying High with Herb Kelleher: A Profile in Charismatic Leadership (Journal of Leadership Studies) January 22, 1999
  5. An Interview with Arthur M. Blank, Owner and CEO, Atlanta Falcons and Chairman, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation (Leaders Magazine)

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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