As former University of Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh once said, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” Simply put, leaders must have an idea of what future they are leading toward if they are to have any hope of getting anyone to follow!
Having vision is having a picture of future possibilities. Without a picture of where you are going—without a hopeful vision of what could be—it is virtually impossible to inspire people to go there with you.
I am reminded of my own story, starting a hospital from scratch back in the early 1970s. I was thirty-years-old, just a couple years out of graduate school and into my career, and I was hired to be the CEO of a medical center that was only a hope and a dream at the time. In the beginning, the organization was without funding, property, buildings, employees, medical staff, or patients. I was the very first employee, hired to turn a dream and vision into reality.
Thanks largely to the significant impact and positive foundation provided during the first two years of my career by one very inspirational leader—Max Coppom—I was able to create a vision and build and lead the organization from the ground up. Thanks to that vision and determination, the Dallas-Fort Worth Medical Center was the fastest growing hospital in the state of Texas at that time, and I enjoyed fifteen incredible years at its helm.
Whether you’re a leader in a large corporation, a coach of a sports team, or a teacher in an elementary school, you are leading people somewhere, and you must have a vision of the future you’d like them to reach.
Inspirational leaders must be farsighted, not only concerned with the daily life of their teams or organizations, but continuously keeping the end in mind as well. As Warren Bennis once said, “Leaders keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line.”
[This article was adapted from Chapter 12 of my book, Be An Inspirational Leader]