6 Traits of Visionary Leadership

6 Traits of Visionary Leadership

All throughout history, there is no shortage of truly inspirational and visionary leaders.  Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Telsa Motors, Ford Motor Company’s former president and CEO, Alan Mulally, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and of course Steve Jobs.  All of these leaders possess these 6 Traits of Visionary Leadership that inspired their teams to greatness.   

So, what are the skills that stand out as foundational in their approach?

Good Communication Skills

A visionary leader has good communication skills. They know how to verbalize their dreams and goals and can easily explain this to their team. For the leader, communication isn’t just one-sided. In addition to sharing her vision for the future, a visionary leader is also an active listener.

As more people “catch the vision,” leaders listen to their ideas and thoughts, incorporating them into the larger goal. Additionally, visionaries involve others in reaching their milestones and help the team members meet their personal goals.

Charismatic Leadership

Visionary leaders also have a unique charisma. Without question, it’s that certain something that draws people to them. It lifts team spirit and elevates moral which is a gateway to increased productivity.

True, some individuals are born with this type of personal flair but almost anyone can learn how to cultivate the confidence and energy associated with infectious charisma.

Foundation Development

Visionary leaders also are chief organizers. While many leaders have administrators that manage the processes, the leader often sets up the organization by establishing key departments or functions. As the organizer-in-chief, the visionary directs, develops and conducts meetings until reliable help is found. During the initial organization, a leader will take the time to build a solid foundation through establishing boards, councils or a company hierarchy.

Strategic Business Planner

Visionary leaders are strategic planners. Like a chess player, these leaders plan ahead to make the best business moves. Strategic planning involves creating an action plan with a particular strategy in mind. The leader’s vision defines what the organization will look like in the future and how it will function. His strategies are designed to take him toward his ultimate vision.

Risk Taker

Visionary leaders, like Elon Musk, are notable risk-takers. These leaders are willing to gamble on something they believe in, but the gamble is often a measured one. Visionaries are creative people that take the initiative with the appropriate action. Visionaries take intelligent risks that capitalize on prime conditions.

Resilience

Leaders who were brought in to guide companies through tumultuous times have to have tenacity and determination. Furthermore, they could likely be dealing with situations where they have to fight against old ideas, company politics, and external pressures.

Build on Your Natural Abilities

As a leader, you may not embody all 6 Traits of Visionary Leadership mentioned above, and that’s OK. It’s important to know which traits come naturally to you and which may not.

To develop your own leadership style, find a variety of mentors. Mentors can provide experienced perspectives to help you determine the best way to respond to business challenges. These mentors could be peers, potential investors or leaders from entirely different industries.

While you don’t have to follow all the advice you receive, remain receptive to new ideas. Additionally, as you accumulate experience, examine your actions and ask for regular feedback to discover your strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t just rely on your mentors’ experience — search for case studies. Consume as many news stories, articles, documentaries, books, and blog posts as you can. Learn how others approach challenges.

Continued Education

Finally, network to gain additional perspectives. Take advantage of workshops, conferences and other opportunities focused on leadership development to learn new skills and network with others who can offer diverse points of view.

Many of the leaders you admire aren’t superhuman — they’ve honed their ability to utilize their best traits to drive positive change within their organizations. Your approach to a situation can mean the difference between positive mental health and burnout, profit and loss and success and failure. When you learn to harness your greatest strengths, you become a better leader and a catalyst for change.

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4 Keys to Successful Leadership Transitions

4 Keys to Successful Leadership Transitions

Leadership Transitions – sometimes they are welcomed and sometimes they are dreaded. Either way, they are never easy and when not done well can leave lasting scars. If you are in a transitional situation, these 4 keys to successful leadership transitions are useful.

Too often, people focus on the logistical aspects of the transition and neglect the interpersonal. The departing leader, the new leader and the board all play critical roles. They must manage the interpersonal, and if they do, there is a much greater probability that the transition will go smoothly.

Business leadership transitions occur for many reasons:

  • An owner selling the business to a family member, partner or outside interest.
  • Leadership change opens the role allowing another team member to advance in the organization.
  • Crisis such as death, accident or illness requires an immediate transition
  • A leader chooses to leave the organization or is forced out by owners or board

So, how best can leaders best handle transitions? Consider the following 4 keys to successful leadership transitions as a guide.

1. Clearly define roles.

For the former leader within the organization. While a clean break is usually healthiest for the new leaders and the organization, for many reasons this often does not occur. If the former leader is the owner, parent or CEO becoming chairman, they will still want to be involved in some way. It is healthiest for the organization if the former leader has a well-defined and limited role. Most of his communication should be with the new leader and not the people under them.

2. The former leader creates a new identity. 

This really applies to those who are transitions, however staying within the organization. Identity is attached to leadership in the sense of the leader’s purpose within the organization. During the time of transition, that identity is shifting and needs a new focus. Often the new leader, board members or consultants could help the former leader create their new identity. 

What are the former leader’s passions, interests, and hobbies? While hobbies, such as golf, are time-consuming they rarely offer the mental stimulation or recognition they need to form their new identity. Could they volunteer, mentor or consult outside the organization or take on a project of some kind? This is a time when the former leader could make a difference by getting involved in a non-profit or helping young entrepreneurs.

3. Communication is key. 

When both the former and new leaders talk about their new relationship, their emotions, and identities, they could work through many issues festering just below the surface. The new leaders must always treat the former leader respectfully and explain upfront that they may be doing some things differently. 

They could identify where they are aligned and not aligned, and discuss how to resolve the unaligned areas. Everyone must be invested in helping the former leader move on and the new leaders take charge.

4. Role of the Board. 

The best way that members of the board could support the transition is to transition along with leadership. Members of the board who have served with the former leader and are aligned with him/her could serve as confidantes to the former leader and guide him/her through the transition. They too ought to depart the board and allow new leadership to create their own board of advisors. 

Too often board members use the justification of having institutional knowledge when in fact this knowledge could prevent the organization from moving forward in a reinvigorated way. Boards today require fresh thinking and diverse perspectives. 

What better time to create that, than in a transition of leadership.

The smoothest transitions often have a well-articulated succession plan and clear processes for managing and communicating the changes. They also address the identity, emotional and relationship issues of both the former and new leaders and create an environment of open communication among the leaders and the board. The organization moves forward by respecting the former leader while having the latitude to innovate and build a team for the future. 

When done well, everyone excels in their new roles and the organization thrives. As an additional option consider hiring a transitional leader to aid the process.

Warren Buffett and the Benefits of Plain English Writing Techniques

Plain English

This is an excerpt from an article that highlights the benefits of plain English writing techniques as developed and implemented by Warren Buffet.  Even though Buffet’s writing techniques are geared more towards financial documents and business proposals, the teachings can be applied to how we communicate to coworkers, clients, friends, and family.    

Original article click here.

1. Start Early

Developing a Plain English document takes time – the first time! For your first Plain English proposal, allow extra time to write, edit, and revise. Add more time than you would expect to your usual schedule if possible. The next time it’s easier.

2. Study the principles of Plain English

Remember: you want your request for proposal to be understood in one reading. This means you need to:

3. Promote Plain English amongst your Staff

Once you’ve seen the benefits of plain English compared with other writing styles, you can promote its values to your own staff and senior management. You need to get your staff onside so that they will begin writing in this style. Likewise, you also need to convince your managers of its values and possibly funding for a training program. Explain to both camps how they will benefit. Outline a high-level roadmap with timelines for the overall program.

4. Contact an experienced proposal writer

The first time you write a plain English proposal, you may find it time-consuming and more difficult than you thought. If this is the case, you’re on the right track! Everything worthwhile is difficult the first time round – soon you will get the hang of it.

You can also approach a writing consultant, especially someone who has a proven track record of writing good, clear English.

5. Review previous Proposals and see where you can improve

Before you start writing, consider the following:

  • Literacy level. What level of education is required to understand the Proposal? Use the Fog Index to test your proposal’s readability.
  • Clarity. What parts of the Proposal are hard to understand? Are the sentences too long and complex? Does it use technical terms and acronyms that the target audience will not understand?
  • Organization. How easy can you find relevant information? Would the Proposal be clearer if you reordered the main sections and possibly the sub-sections within it? Does the table of contents and index need sharpening? Are there too many/too few levels of information in the TOC.
  • Repetition. Is the same information repeated in several sections? Does it have any real benefit?
  • Headings. Should the headings be re-written in the form of questions that each section answers?
  • Format. Do you need to add more bullet-point lists? Put keywords in bold? Use more white space?

6. Create an outline to help readers find information faster

One very effective writing style is to write headings as questions,which each section answers. If you include sub-sections, use a numbered outline format (e.g. 1.2, 1.3) for the section headings. This helps the reader find the main sections quickly and see the relationship among subsections.

7. Write the RFP, section by section, using plain language techniques

If some sections are hard to write, read them aloud and see where they are difficult to understand. Go through the document section by section.

Write the first draft of key sections first, and then work on the inside sections. Once you’ve written these, refine the text by editing each section tightly. However, make sure your text does not become too cold and dry. Write as if you were speaking to a colleague whom you respect; this often helps control the tone of the document.

8. Review and Revise

Once you’ve finished the first draft, get it reviewed internally by colleagues who can add value to the review process. Don’t choose colleagues who are too close to the Proposal, as they will not see errors. Instead, get a neutral reviewer if possible. After getting the feedback, make the required edits.

If possible, ask volunteers from the target population to review the draft Proposal. Ask them if they can locate information easily. When interviewing ask open questions and you will get a better response.

Avoid closed questions, such as, is this a great RFP? Most will say Yes, just to please you – and make you go away!

Ask how much they could read in one sitting. Again, revise as needed.

9. Create an easy-to-read format

Format the document to make it easy to read and attractive in presentation. If you have time, prepare a template that can be re-used for all future RFP’s. This will reduce the time spend on preparing the document.

  • Leave a blank line between paragraphs
  • Use bulleted lists
  • Highlight main points with bold and italics
  • Use boxes for examples
  • Use white space generously
  • Include margins of at least one inch all around the page
  • Use two (2) columns to increase readability, if practical

Use several different type sizes for headings. In many documents, the headings are in San Serif font (i.e. Verdana) and the body is in a Serif font (e.g. Times New Roman). Use a contrast in style to add emphasis.

10. Get feedback – and share it

Lastly, see if the Proposal works! Ask the external reviewers how they felt using the ‘new’ plain English Proposal. Get feedback from personnel involved in the review process and collate it for distribution.

  • Did they find that the plain English Proposal made a better application?
  • Was it easier to write the application, and what made the most difference?
  • What worked and what needs more refinement.

Summarize what you learned and share this information with colleagues. Encourage them to try writing plain English Proposals.

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