Qualities of Visionary Leadership

View from the Top: Arcus Innovation Leaders Series. The Seven Biggest Mistakes a Leader Can Make and how Qualities of Visionary Leadership can help.


Most leaders want to learn from others mistakes.  Many agree that one of the biggest ones is to put their self-interest ahead of the best interest of the organizations they run.

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  • Putting self-interest ahead of the best interest of the institutions.
  • Being certain.
  • Overly enamoured by their vision.
  • Personal arrogance and hubris.
  • Acting too fast.
  • Obsessing with leadership style.
  • Not being self-reflective.

Qualities of Visionary Leadership


Putting self-interest ahead of the best interest of the institutions. Most leaders want to learn from others mistakes. Many agree that one of the biggest ones is to put their self-interest ahead of the best interest of the organizations they run. That, to many executives is the greatest failing of a leader. As Peter Drucker said, ‘Leadership is about responsibility’. It is a deep responsibility to the people companies work with: their customers, employees, shareholders and all those constituencies leaders represent. Many leaders see it as an obligation, and carrying that responsibility out is the essence of good leadership.


Being certain. Today, in business, the only constant is change. When leaders confuse the stability of mindsets with the stability of the underlying phenomenon, they tend to act as if they know. When they think they know, they cease to pay attention any longer. Why bother since you know? People want is a leader to learn how to exploit the power of uncertainty.


Live up to values. Leaders who espouse values but don’t deliver them are very rapidly found out and rapidly turned over. That is probably one of the biggest crimes a leader can commit. This may be one of the reasons we see so much churn in leadership positions today.


Overly enamoured by their vision: Leaders who are overly enamoured by their vision tend to they lose all capacity for self-doubt. It is the flip-side of inspiring and passionate leadership. Often leaders can get caught up in becoming  single-mindedly focused on the pursuit of a purpose and that moves from being a passion and a purpose to becoming an obsession. At that point, when leaders are the most inspiring – they can also be most vulnerable. They might lose their capacity to look at the consequences of what they are trying to do and de-emphasize others opinions in context of their passion and relentless pursuit.


Personal arrogance and hubris. Many leaders say that confusing the size of the enterprise or the success of the enterprise with an individual’s persona is a big mistake. It creates greater social-distance and power-distance which is de-motivating for most organizations and people. It increases the probability of making big mistakes.


Acting too fast. Many say it is about potentially acting too fast and executing before actually thinking the issue through. In corporations – and even the government – leaders often find that they are drinking from a fire-hose of issues that are coming at them, and there’s very little time to actually step back, evaluate and think about what they are doing and enter the stage with a new, clear vision. Most times, it’s very much a ‘harness the flow of issues’ and address those that need immediate attention. So realistically, the best thing a leader can do is take a step back from the situation with their management team, seek advice, think through it – even if it’s a five minute process – and then move back to execution. This stepping back is both good in the short-term in solving issues, but also in long-term management and digging through strategies for a firm.


Obsessing with leadership style. There’s a whole range of leadership styles but it is important to accept that their responsibilities are larger than themselves. Its also about not being authentic, trying to be something else and being inconsistent. The word ‘integrity’ means whole and ‘consistency’. The greatest fear we see from people in the work places: Is the perception of whether the leader will  come up to an employee and ask ‘how are you doing today?’ or the one who ignores common courtesies and a caring attitude. So not being authentic, consistent, predictable and being all about you and not something bigger than yourself is a mistake.


Not being self-reflective. Good leaders think about how they can develop themselves and about how their behaviour impacts other people. Unless someone is willing to hold up a mirror to themselves and have an honest conversation with themselves, about the effect their leadership is having and the effect they have on other people, they are unlikely to become effective as leaders. Conversely, the worst leaders just bulldoze forward through life, making mistakes and not really looking back on the past, not learning as they go and not necessarily being self-aware of how they’re affecting the people around them. Many leaders say that trust is very valued in the relationship between leaders and employees.