Influential leaders are often visionaries. They see a clear picture in their head of a dream to accomplish and rapidly begin pursuing it. They are opportunity focused.
Visionary C-level leaders are often egocentric in their approach to the world. They realize they have a unique vision and, thus, process all experiences and information in relationship to how it affects their vision.
If not careful, visionary leaders can err on one or two fronts:
1. The leader can become controlling and over-assertive.
2. The leader is so hyper-focused that he or she disconnects from the team
The Controlling Leader
While a visionary leader may be naturally wired to process egocentrically, there is a small and dangerous step to egotism—an undue sense of self-importance. This step is taken when a leader begins to believe that not only does he or she possess the vision, but is the only person who knows the tactics by which to achieve it. In this situation, the leader develops a savior complex. Soon this sense of self-elevation begins to poison the environment. This manifests in two primary ways.
1. Any dissenting opinion is shut down
The strength of any team is the ability to bring diverse creativity to dream accomplishment and spreading the creation of the means necessary to accomplish it across a group of people. There are more people to bear the weight. However, egotistical leaders tend to hire one of two types of people: one, a person who so despises conflict that he or she will do anything the leader will say, even if internally they disagree; two, someone who reminds them of themselves, because, after all, they really like themselves. This second group of people usually becomes toxic to an egotistical leader as soon as the employee’s similarly strong opinion is expressed.
2. The Goose-Gander Principle takes hold
“What’s good sauce for a goose, is good for a gander” was originally penned by John Ray in 1670 in A Collection of Proverbs. While originally meaning what is good for a man is also good for a woman, the saying has been broadened to what’s good for one is good for all. Any inflated sense of self will soon show itself to be violating the goose-gander principle. Examples of this manifestation occur in simple ways. Team members can be berated when they are a few minutes late to a meeting, but the leader can be consistently late because he or she was doing something “very important.” Phrases such as, “you all don’t understand,” “I’m the only one who…” and “my pace has been maddening, ”(when everyone’s has) become more frequent. Policies apply to everyone except the leader. Resentment builds and an us-them attitude develops, crippling honest communication.
When the poison of an overly-controlling leader enters an organization, productivity declines dramatically. There is a second way a visionary leader can hinder his or her dream.
The Hyper-Focused Leader
Hyper-focused leaders are often well intentioned. They want to achieve a vision and are willing to self-sacrifice to accomplish it. They can block out almost anything that is not directly tied to accomplishing the vision. The danger emerges when a leader gets so focused, he or she doesn’t remember there is a team helping to arrive at the vision.
1. Failure to Celebrate
Because they so strongly see the final vision and desire to accomplish it, hyper-focused leaders tend to be radically future focused. As such, they tend to miss smaller wins that are a part of accomplishing the overall vision. These wins are then not celebrated. Anthropologists acknowledge that all people groups have celebration as a core part of their culture. Celebrations are cultural markers that provide identity and remind us of prominent moments in our history (including organizational history). As humans, we were designed to celebrate. When there is a lack of celebration, team morale begins to drop. Nothing motivates a team like a successful result.
2. Going over the horizon
A visionary leader is focused on the dream, especially if he or she is its originator. Much of their life is given to accomplishing the vision. Time and energy are poured into the effort. The dream consumes their thoughts, more so than others. Often, a leader will lose the realization that it takes intentional effort to bring others along on the journey. Visionaries assume everyone sees the end picture as clearly as they do. They press ahead rapidly, not looking any direction but forward. Because the leader did not slow down to consistently communicate the vision to bring others along, the leaders passes over the horizon, and their team loses sight of them. Thus, the visionary leader turns around to find no one following them. Since the leader is physically present but not connecting the team to the vision, alternate visions begin to surface within the organization. Soon there is division (literally, two visions) and the organization goes adrift.
Growing the Visionary Leader Beyond Egocentrism.
Great leaders empower others. They know their primary role is to present a clear picture of the dream, showing others how they can use their strengths to be involved in accomplishing it. They hand off large pieces of the vision and are open to multiple means to achieve it. They welcome other’s ideas. Even if this doesn’t come naturally, a visionary leader’s empowerment can be developed.
The Keller Influence Indicator® provides a clear measurement of a leader’s ability to lead in this way. The empowering trait score provides insight into how much control a leader is willing to relinquish in order to bring a team’s strengths to bear.
The Keller Influence Indicator® describes the empowering influence trait as follows:
Empowering others is a practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with others so they can take initiative and make decision to solve problems and improve their lives. It is based on the idea that when you give people the resources, authority, opportunity, and the chance to contribute they will increase their competency and fulfillment.
Empowering others is a process that encourages people to gain control over their lives. It fosters power that they can use in all aspects of their lives. When you empower people you are helping them succeed and achieve on multiple levels. In short, empowering helps increase another person’s spiritual, social, mental, and emotional strengths.
Our Keller Empowering Trait Workbook® provides leaders a comprehensive way to grow their empowering indicator, reducing any tendency to fall into egocentric behaviors.
Here are three simple ways you can begin to empower others:
1 Be intentional about showing appreciation. People feel appreciated in different ways. Learn whether a handwritten card, an invitation to be a part of special a think tank, public recognition, or other appreciative offering most speaks to each team member.
2. Schedule more time to help team members accomplish the vision. Have a conversation with individuals to learn what key obstacles are blocking their progress. Use your influence to help remove these obstacles.
3. Learn to party. Create a culture that celebrates wins. When a milestone is achieved, slow down, and throw a party. Don’t announce next steps or improvements at the party. This can be seen as an ulterior motive for the celebration. These celebrations anchor winning into the team’s consciousness and will motivate future success.
The move from egocentrism to empowerment is challenging but possible. It is very necessary influence trait to develop as no great dream is ever accomplished alone. The Keller Influence Indicator® (KII®) resources provide visionary leaders insight and a way forward.