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Robert Galway

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Have visions become more important than reality?

It seems like you can’t make it through the day anymore without hearing someone in a leadership role speak about their vision for the future. Somehow, being a visionary has become more important than being a good leader and executing a well thought out and realistic plan to accomplish a goal. Lost is the fact that a vision left unrealized is just a pleasant dream. A vision unburdened by the complexities of reality is a euphoric notion.

Visions need to have a reality metric that includes the time, energy, resources and risk required to bring the current state into the envisioned state. However, those with vision are seldom held accountable for their ability to execute a vision. It is not until the innovation and work associated with turning the vision into a reality are accomplished that a vision is anything more than an idle thought.

Sadly, it seems with the short cycle of many leadership roles that the “new vision” brought in is often not achievable in the length of the leadership term. Consequently, you wind up with whole organizations chasing vision after vision, and no vision accountability. An unfortunate partner in this phenomena is the willingness of subordinates to pander to the vision of a leader in hopes of career advancement. Group vision chasing seems to have a higher priority than quality of product, production rate, creativity in problem solving, or work ethic.

On the up-side, it is fun to watch a misguided vision ripple run down several oracle whips in parallel. It is amazing to see the amount of misinterpretation, false significance, and distortion is given to the visions of others. Occasionally, if these false truths appear to be popular, or turn out to be true, then miraculously the visionary will often support the new notion as “what I really meant”.

So, I am curious if anyone else in the TED world have a vision accountability metric or strategy?

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  • Oct 6 2012: It is when the vision of the future is clear that one can then channel energy and resources to the actualisation of such. A leader must have a vision; visionary leaders achieve far more than leaders who aim at nothing and achieve little. In fact, good leadership is visionary leadership.

    It is important to note that the fact that a leader shares his or her vision with the followers does not mean the vision will become a reality in his/her lifetime or during his/her tenure. A vision is an expected end that guides the decision, energy, talents,abilities and focus of the followers and the leader.
    Sometimes a leader may not be clear in communicating his or her vision, and such could be misinterpreted by the followers.
    Having a vision does not mean that the vision would never change; so, for progress it is important for organisations to chase "vision after vision"; because without a vision there would be nothing to chase in the first place.
    • Oct 6 2012: Mr. Anjorin,

      Thank you for your comment.

      My "vision after vision' statement was targeting leadership regime changes where subsequent visions were intended to be more revolutionary than evolutionary, often for sake of image. Often it seems the vision becomes the product rather than establishing order from chaos towards a better product. I agree that a good leader will adapt his vision to new events and circumstances as necessary to achieve better overall results, some of which might be long-term.

      I agree than good leaders should have good vision and that the end state of a vision may not happen in a lifetime. However, good leadership should balance pursuit of vision with other business decisions. A leader focused more of development and communication of a vision is more of a philosopher than a leader. If you do not solve the problems of the present, or manage you people so they can effectively do so, than you will not win the respect and attention of those with the power to help you make your vision a reality.
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    Oct 6 2012: Fayisayo said, "It is when the vision of the future is clear that one can then channel energy and resources to the actualisation of such."

    That is a very true statement.

    Many people have a vision of what our next major energy source should be...wind, solar, nuclear, or whatever other proposals have been made.

    Bill Gates summed it up very nicely (last year?) when attending the yearly student conference at the college he and Warren Buffet hold for the graduating students. When a student asked Gates, "What new energy source would you invest in now to make a profit from in the future?", Gates answered, "None of them, because there is no clear leader in the race yet for which technology will be the most beneficial then implemented. Any investment in them is too risky right now, because only one will win and all the others will go bankrupt."

    Leaders face the same problems. They may have a vision, but unable to start implementing it yet because the technology hasn't determined which course of action to take is the best one yet.

    The world is stuck with the massive problem of going from petroleum powered vehicles to say all electric vehicles. The infrastructure in place to support tho current petroleum vehicles would have to be dismantled and replaced with an electric-recharging infrastructure if you wanted to drive any farther away then back from your home to recharge the vehicle's batteries.

    Lots of visionary ideas are out there to solve problems. But in many cases, the correct one hasn't been proven to be the "best" one yet.