Transitioning to Senior Leadership: Leading With Strategic Vision

In our last two posts, we began to explore the second mindset shift that leaders need to make to successfully navigate the transition into senior leadership. It’s a shift from a Problem Orientation to an Outcome Orientation.

The three components to actually making this shift are (1) cross-organizational advocacy, (2) driving strategic vision, and (3) building people capacity. We’ll explore the second component in this post.

Driving Strategic Vision

Driving strategic vision is about maintaining a broader perspective and longer-term view of the work you do. At the emerging leader level, the primary focus is usually on what has to be done today or this week. As senior leaders, the focus has to shift to the next 6, 12, 18, and even 24 months ahead.  Without a sound vision, the integration with a newly acquired company or the rollout of a new software development methodology won’t mean much to the people you lead.

John Kotter states in his Harvard Business Review article on Leading Change, they when they studied failed transformation efforts, they often found plans, directives, and programs in place but rarely was there a clear and compelling vision. The mind numbing details were there, but team members rarely understood the direction, what was it in for them, and why the changes were being made. As a result people reportedly felt alienated and confused.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Even if you don’t consider yourself “visionary,” respond to the following three questions to better drive strategic vision.

Are you a source of vision? In other words, are you showing up in this world painting the picture of the future or are you complaining about the logistical inconveniences that we often find in major change efforts. Is the future exciting? Is it a picture that others want to be a part of? You can be a source of vision in all aspects of your work – for your team or organization, for the quality of service you provide, for your career, for your team members’ careers, for the culture of the organization, and even for the 3-week project that just landed on your desk.

Are you a source of possibilities? It’s hard to inspire people with a vision if the future isn’t positive. And your positivity doesn’t have to be fake or inauthentic. In fact, it can be real, vulnerable, and positive at the same – inspiring realistic hope. Being a source of possibilities means having conversations about how things can be. It means looking beyond the complaints, constraints, and criticism and remaining open long enough to imagine a different outcome or possibility.

Are you a source for finding greater meaning in your work? Leaders who begin to develop their capacity to focus more on the future, also find more significant personal meaning in their work. Their work becomes less about processing benefits, or selling software, or building widgets. It becomes more about about making a contribution to our work and our world in a meaningful way.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series and more about making the transition to an Outcome Orientation.