From First-Time Leaders to CEOs: A Key Component to Success Is a Well-Crafted Vision

What happens when entrusted leaders do not take time to develop well-crafted visions for impactful projects or organizational direction? Consider the following illustration.

One summer’s day, a group of five colleagues and I decided to go on a morning hike in the Texas Hill Country. We planned to complete it before the sun blazed midday and prepared accordingly. Because our leader had hiked it before, we trusted that he had a plan.

After an hour, we made it to the peak of the mound. As we descended, some members of the group decided to encircle the mountain at its base. We all went along, believing our group’s leader knew how far it would be around the base and how long it would take to hike it.

As it happened, he had no idea.

After three or four miles, we began to ask how long it would take before reaching our original starting point. Seeing no end, or rather, no starting point in sight, we began to feel scared; our leader was lost, we had no compass, the sun was ablaze, and we were overheated, thirsty and hungry.

Worse, our group had lost faith in its leader. We no longer had confidence in him to lead us to safety. One thing we were sure of: We had gotten ourselves into a bad situation from which none of us knew how to get out.

Luckily, hours later, the six of us made it back safely from a hike that was supposed to cover a designated territory in a time-frame that was agreeable to everyone. In the end, our expectations were dashed. We got lost, hiked longer than we were prepared for and found ourselves unprepared to deal with the rising heat. The expected enjoyment turned into a frustrating, even dangerous, experience for all.

This is exactly what happens when entrusted leaders do not take time to develop well-crafted visions for impactful projects or organizational direction. They take organizations and people in a direction that results in a bad situation for everyone. When leaders push forward without clearly defining where they are going or how long it will take to get there, without provisions or with a clear outcome in mind, the results are confusion, fear and doubt, and widespread distrust in the leadership.

Without a well-planned vision for the journey and the desired outcome, neither the leader nor the organization can foresee the challenges of the road ahead or the solutions to those challenges, and, therefore, cannot equip themselves with the tools they need to succeed.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

When a new leader, whether a front-line manager or the CEO, takes the helm, he or she must create and communicate his or her vision as a critical first step in the organization’s success.

If you are leading people, no matter how many or at what level, you must have a well-planned vision of where you want to take your organization and communicate that idea effectively. A tangible vision lays the foundation for success and drives the strategy that will be implemented to attain success.

A clear, well-crafted vision can help avoid unnecessary pitfalls by providing four key components of successful leadership initiatives:

1. Direction. A vision provides direction for the leader and the organization. It allows people to focus, prioritize and plan ahead to successfully overcome any obstacles that may arise.

2. Purpose. People like to know that their work is meaningful. They want to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. A vision helps them see how their efforts fit into the big picture and how they are contributing to making the company’s vision a reality.

3. Empowerment. When people understand where the organization is heading, they are better able to make the right choices that help the organization successfully reach its destination.

4. Stability. People fear uncertainty. Without a single-minded, well-communicated vision, people in the organization are constantly being led to change directions. With a tangible vision in place and made public, people know that things won’t change from one day to the next, which creates in people a sense of achievement and meaning in their work. A vision statement is a commitment that leaders make to their employees on how they plan to lead them to success.

To develop a well-crafted vision, follow these six tips:

1. Understand the vision is the foundation for the success of the organization-and your own.

2. Align the vision with the company’s core values.

3. Solicit input from members of the organization, clients and other stakeholders or shareholders. A vision should emerge from the collective interests of all involved (Northouse, 2010).

4. Thing big! Where do you see the organization in five to 10 years (Barrow, Kaplan & Norton, 2008).

5. Create a vision that is aspirational, inspirational and measurable (Barrow, Kaplan & Norton, 2008).

6. Create a vision that can be easily understood by all and effectively communicated.

Having a vision for an organization is like having a compass on a hike. It provides the leader and his or her followers with a tool to see where their true north is and to stay their course. It enables leaders at all levels and their followers to make the right strategic, operational and tactical decisions that are aligned with the direction in which the organization wants to go.


Barrow, E. A., Kaplan, R. S., & Norton, D. P. (2008, January-February). Developing the Strategy; Vision, Value Gaps and Analysis. Balance Scorecard, 10(1), 1-5.

Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

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