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A visionary leader is one who inspires their team members towards a common goal or purpose through innovation and collaboration. They encourage team members to leverage their own innovative ideas to fuel creativity while navigating the team toward a unified vision.

Visionary leaders exist at all levels of management, and they possess skills that inspire personal growth and enhance business value. Psychologist Daniel Goleman emphasizes that visionary leaders only articulate where their team is heading—not how they will get there. The how is left up to the team members. Thus, a visionary leadership style has roots in driving people to experiment, create, and take risks.

Why Is Visionary Leadership Important?

The value of visionary leadership includes laying out a clear purpose and goal for teams and organizations. Gallup reports that a low percentage of workers feel their organization and leaders provide direction, purpose, and communication:

  • Only 22 percent of workforce members believe their leaders possess a clear direction for the company.
  • Only 13 percent of team members strongly agree their leaders effectively communicate with the workforce.
  • 42 percent of managers face competing priorities, which can detract from the vision
  • 14 percent of individuals strongly agree that they are satisfied with the speed of their leadership team’s ability to make decisions.

Visionary leaders are responsible for closing these gaps while helping workforce members feel more confident about their and the company’s future. Adopting a visionary leadership style can prevent individuals from becoming stagnant and instead lead them to focus on contributions to long-term goals and ultimate success.

What Are the Characteristics of a Visionary Leader?

There are six common characteristics visionary leaders possess:

1. Goal-Oriented

Visionary leaders understand that identifying and establishing a common goal is key to:

  • Bringing a vision to life.
  • Building harmonious relationships.
  • Enhancing communication and collaboration.

Leaders who employ this style can also leverage the strengths and weaknesses of team members to work towards a common goal.

2. Inspirational

Visionary leaders use their goal-oriented mindsets to inspire and drive their teams forward. They strive to create an energizing atmosphere that enables workforce members to voice their ideas, undertake challenging tasks, and grow and develop.

3. Innovative

True visionaries encourage their teams to bring their ideas to life. They are open-minded and encourage new and distinct ways to better serve customers and create a competitive advantage for the team and organization.

Visionary leaders consistently challenge themselves and those around them to ask, “What if?” This question can inspire new concepts and ideas that lead to creative and value-adding solutions.

4. Communicative

The two critical parts of communication in visionary leadership are:

  • Communicating and disseminating information about the specific goal and objective the teams should aim for, laying the foundation for improved alignment.
  • Facilitating collaborative discussions where team members share and combine their ideas and expertise to achieve the goals and objectives.

By fostering open communication, visionary leaders can encourage team members to come to them or others within the team with questions or ideas.

5. High Level of Emotional Intelligence

A high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) enables visionary leaders to properly regulate their thoughts and emotions when working with diverse people, personalities, and workplace challenges. EQ encompasses:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Your emotional intelligence level allows you to assess your own behaviors and decisions as well as how they impact those around you. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, 90 percent of high performers in an organization also have a high EQ level.

A high EQ level enables leaders to be visionary by being able to:

  • Sense when teams or team members need more connection, support, or direction in their work.
  • Productively respond to setbacks, challenges, or change in a way that moves the work and team forward.
  • Understand and communicate with their customers in a way that empowers them to provide added value, helps the customers feel important, and builds long-term relationships.

Regardless of your chosen leadership style, working on your EQ can benefit you as a leader.

6. Collaborative

Visionary leaders tend to focus on human connection and expertise to build on ideas or adopt new ones. Visionary leaders open dialogue around important ideas or issues. These leaders understand that truly being transformational requires getting buy-in from others and building support around needed resources. It is just not possible to transform if only a few key people have all the knowledge, wisdom, and power. So, open up and explore ideas with others.

Businessman looking to the future with telescope

How Can You Develop Visionary Leadership Skills?

As you strive to develop visionary leadership skills, apply these concepts:

1. Understand the Value of Creating a Mission Statement

Visionary leadership begins with a common purpose. Creating an organizational mission statement can serve as a declaration or announcement of that shared purpose.

A mission statement includes four key elements:

  • Purpose: Why your team exists.
  • Vision: Where your team is heading.
  • Strategy: How your team plans to achieve its purpose.
  • Value: What benefits or value propositions your team provides to stakeholders.

Although these four elements are typical, your mission statement can contain whatever you as a leader deem to be important for the team’s vision. Use this mission statement to inspire and inform team members why what they do is important and what their team is working towards. And when individuals understand expectations, they can take ownership and create their own strategies to achieve an objective. Encourage your team members to participate in crafting a mission statement that your team can own, adopt and feel good about.

2. Look for Opportunities to Improve

Visionary leaders understand there is always room for improvement. They actively seek opportunities to get team members to buy in and support the shared goals. When seeking to improve, consider taking the following actions:

  • Adopting an outside-in perspective: How does the organization look from the outsider’s perspective? Based on this perspective, how can things change and get better?
  • Asking “why not?”: Answering this question can help you dismantle conventional thinking and discover innovative solutions to complex problems.
  • Utilizing the talents of individual team members: Each person has different strengths and work styles. Encourage individuals to bring and apply their own strengths to solve problems and spearhead projects.

3. Become More Empathetic

Empathy is at the core of emotional intelligence and grants individuals the space and opportunity to build rapport and identify with others. An empathetic leader can also:

  • Promote inclusivity.
  • Create a safe space for transparency.
  • Become more open-minded.

Visionary leaders who remain rooted in empathy are open to new concepts and encourage others to share their vision. Leaders can develop empathy by regularly checking in on team members and requesting feedback.

Data reported by BetterUp shows that one in four employees doesn’t feel like they belong at their job. Implementing the visionary leadership style can help address and solve this common issue in the workplace, as it allows opportunities for team members to share their ideas and feel valued.

Visionary Leadership Style with CMOE

For more guidance on visionary leadership style, explore CMOE’s renown Leadership Development workshops and training solutions. We can also answer questions you have about this particular leadership style. Contact us to get started.