The twentieth century witnessed a large increase in the life expectancy of a person. This is due to a number of scientific discoveries namely the penicillin, vaccination and significant advances in diagnostic technology such as X rays and MRI. With deaths being pushed further and further back, many of the major health problems currently prevailing have gradually changed from infectious diseases to chronic diseases. They are now either due to our individual lifestyle choices (diabetes, for instance) or to the ageing process – the Alzheimer’s disease.
In other words, the past is definitely no longer a good predictor of the future. Outlier events such as acts of terrorism, earthquakes have further demonstrated that our existing approach to building our future is obsolete. The most obvious example is the Covid 19 virus. The world now requires every ounce of creativity that it can muster to create new economic and social conditions for a better future. To this effect, visionary leadership is now more than ever a competency that people would need to make this possible.
A visionary leader would set his priorities straight. Saving the planet, for instance, would win over the need to give in to fads such as the phenomenon of “fast fashion”. The visionary leader does not rely on third parties to preserve the environment. His/her spending habits and lifestyle are mindful of his/her personal environmental footprint. Visionary leaders focus on a long-term vision and do not waiver to any herd like mentality for the sake of instant gratification.
A competent visionary leader has an insatiable curiosity about the perspectives and motivations of others. They love networking with people who are different from them. They use this knowledge to help correct their own personal (sometimes unconscious) biases against cultural, gender and social differences. Visionary leaders constantly remind themselves that difference is not a liability but a potential for growth. It takes a strong personal commitment to practice an inclusive leadership style.
Visionary leaders are self aware. Their public image is authentic. They are not afraid of failing and are risk takers. They also do not delve into their mistakes too long and they do not shift the blame to competition, globalisation, immigration or to any third party. Humility is one of their personality traits. They do recognise that change can be positive. For instance, globalisation has brought many positive changes such as the promotion of global vaccination programmes by the World Health Organisation. Similarly, immigration has, for some countries, been a much-needed source of labour in certain sectors of their economies.
Visionary leaders strongly believe that every man and woman is born equal. They do recognise that most nations’ cultural norms are rooted in a patriarchal history. Though prevailing laws and regulations protect women against discrimination, they don’t go far enough to provide a level playing field for women in their professional lives. At work, women tend to use a different approach that can sometimes be perceived as being too soft. Also, women are unfortunately perceived as being unable to handle the high levels of stress that comes with senior management positions. A visionary leader would encourage her/his female team members to engage in mentorship arrangements with their male colleagues. These conversations would help to educate their male counterparts about the value of women’s leadership styles as women’s brains are wired differently.
Today’s world is constantly changing: the emergence of AI (artificial intelligence), the increasing international mobility of people, regular changes in regulations etc. It is natural to wonder as a leader about the need to change, after all, you are at the top of the ladder. It takes courage to be truly a visionary leader. Visionary leaders view work as part of their lifetime objectives. They are determined to continuously learn new skills and knowledge to become better at what they do. They may reinvent themselves from time to time, making occasional career changes and taking sabbaticals to re educate themselves on an as – needed basis. They also do not view retirement as a permanent exit from her/his professional life. They have a more fluid interpretation of retirement as their human capital are far more valuable when it is being shared rather than being shelved