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Blog: Visionary Leadership: Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Visionary Leaders are often identified as innovative, out of the box thinkers, risk takers and able to see the possibilities for the future.  While all of these things are typically true of visionary leaders, they show up as outward attributes that make the visionary leader successful. These things are the aspects of the process that goes on internally within the leader individually. There is another key aspect to being a visionary leader that does not get as much attention or "flair."  This other aspect of visionary leadership is knowing how to empower others.  This attribute of empowering is not only essential to one's development, but it is also important to the success of relationships.

"Seeing the forest” is essential in visionary leadership. The forest is the big picture.  If the leader can’t see it all they will not be able to lead to the highest level outcomes.  Let's go back to the scenario of the forest and the trees.  If the forest is the big picture, let's look at the trees as the colleagues, associates and employees.  These people are the “doers” that make it all happen. A Visionary Leader can’t get so caught up in seeing the big picture (the forest) that they lose sight of the people (the trees) who bring the vision to reality. In keeping this thought, the effective visionary leader needs to have a good sense of the strengths, attributes, and growth opportunities of everyone on their team.  This is a "must" to appropriately empower each individual to be a part of the big picture in a way that will be meaningful to them.

When empowering your team to be a part of the big picture, an effective visionary leader should focus on the following areas:

  • Listen with authenticity – when a new idea is presented, listen completely. Don’t begin formulating a response before you've heard it all.  If you are not listening to learn or interrupting, the person sharing the idea will sense that and may shut down or it will take away from your authenticity and true interest. 
  • Responds with integrity – if it’s a good idea, give credit for it being a good idea. Nobody likes the leader who takes the idea, switches a few words around, and calls it his own idea.  If you do not think it is a good ideas, ask for clarity and more information.  A good example of this is, "Tell me more...." or "How do you see this working...?"
  • Lead with inspiration – if you give the green light to a team member to move forward with an idea, be inspiring and encouraging... also, allow for mistakes and learning opportunities.  Having the opportunity to engage in something new may be a stretch for some team members and frankly, a little scary. 

I learned a great deal about seeing the forest AND the trees in my previous position as a Communications Director. I was fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues with numerous strengths that made our work together so powerful and it was uplifting for me to empower them to be all they could be. What about you..... How do you empower your team or how have you been empowered by a visionary leader?


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