A visionary leader is a person who has a clear idea of how the future should look. They set out concrete steps to bring a vision to life, and then they lead a team of people in that direction. In this article, we talk about the key traits that make a great visionary leader, as well as some of the challenges they may face. We’ll then explore a few strengths of visionary leadership and some actionable steps you can take to adopt this management style.
Key traits of visionary leaders
Visionary leaders are known for breaking away from what’s expected. They lead with intention and enthusiasm in a way that makes their supporters happy to follow. We’ve outlined 13 key traits of most visionary leaders:
They don’t settle for “good enough.” Visionary leaders want to try new things, find new opportunities and know how to stay the course. They are resilient and resolute. They never give up, even when things get difficult.
They are tough and determined individuals who are not easily intimidated. They are prepared to fight policies and institutions that have been in place for a long time. They are masters of resisting pressures both internal and external. Visionaries aren’t afraid of failure, only of never trying. They cultivate that same tenacity in their teammates as well.
Strategic planning is a skill many visionary leaders possess. They can envision what they want the future to look like, and then strategize on how to get there. Since they’re not detail-oriented, the strategic plan may not include all the technicalities, but it will be a starting point for the big picture.
Visionary leaders understand risks, and they are willing to take them.
They are skilled at communicating their ideas and getting others to believe in them.
They are highly organized and pay close attention to the team they gather around them. Often, visionary leaders are highly involved in systems analysis to determine who should be doing what when and how often.
Visionary leaders can maintain focus. Once the goal is identified, the leader starts taking steps to reach it, even when that means changing the minds of others around them. They work hard to display the characteristics they want to see in their team.
Visionaries are inherently positive people. They see the future as bright and problems as temporary. Those around them draw strength from their steadfast optimism.
Visionaries draw people to them with a welcoming, open persona that brings out the best qualities in those around them.
Visionary leaders know that team member buy-in is much more readily achieved when everyone is invited to participate in the creative process. They use the strengths of their team members to balance their own weaknesses, and they embrace creativity and new ideas.
Visionaries have a great imagination. They aren’t afraid to ask “what if,” and they instill a love for that question in those around them.
Even if they are dedicated to the big picture in their minds, they can be flexible about how to reach that vision. They can assimilate information from many sources to develop creative solutions.
13. Emotionally intelligent
Not only are visionary leaders intelligent in the traditional sense of the word, but they’re also emotionally intelligent. They understand the power of feelings and are capable of showing empathy to those around them.
You can find visionaries quoted in motivational speeches and self-help books. They know how to make us passionate about a goal or vision.
Challenges of being a visionary leader
There are some challenges that could come with being a visionary leader, such as:
- Big picture leaders may miss important details. Some visionaries can force themselves to develop the ability to focus on details, but this is rare. For this reason, it is much more common for visionary leaders to hire detail-oriented people to work closely with them.
- Those with a visionary management style may sacrifice present-day circumstances on the idea of the future. They may ignore important issues that need their attention in the moment because they are so future-oriented.
- Visionary leaders may miss other opportunities because they are so focused on one goal. They may refuse to change the plan or abandon it, even when it doesn’t make sense anymore.
Best practices of visionary leaders
There are many good practices that visionary leaders exhibit. A couple of examples include:
- Good visionary leaders understand the value of a mission statement. They know how it can solidify the vision among team members. They begin a project with a clearly contemplated plan that includes everything from processes to staff analysis.
- Visionary leaders are always looking for improvement. They actively seek out opportunities to create buy-in from employees by improving company structures.
- Visionary leaders share the vision with the right people at the right time. They invite others to give input and ideas so the vision is shared and not just the property of one person.
Tips for becoming a visionary leader
Whatever your natural tendencies, you can learn to adopt a more visionary leadership style. Here are a few visionary leadership traits to start practicing:
Keep calm and be consistent
In any period of change, conflict is bound to come up. In times of conflict, practice deep breaths or step away if you need to. It’s better to take time to process the issue than to react out of emotion.
Empathy is an important part of leadership, and vital to good communication. Try viewing things from a different perspective, even if you don’t like the point of view.
Practice good communication skills
Maintaining eye contact and asking clarifying questions are key when communicating with others. Pay attention to the physical cues of the person you’re talking to. Look for signals that you’re being understood and well-received, and be sure to keep your body language friendly and welcoming.
If you’re asking someone to buy into your vision for the future, you need to do so with confidence while still being respectful. Work on maintaining an even tone of voice and setting forth concrete assertions.