What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Being a Visionary Leader

What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Being a Visionary Leader

The best leaders are visionaries. They see something that is possible in the distance, something others cannot see, and they communicate that vision relentlessly to help their team reach it. There might be no better story about vision than the story about former President John F Kennedy and a janitor. The story goes like this:

JFK was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

The janitor got it. He understood NASA’s vision and his part in it. He had a purpose.

One of the most important things you can do to as a leader is to have a vision and communicate with the team so they can envision what their work will help the team achieve. This is not something you can leave up to chance. People have a hard time seeing what is possible — they need a leader like you to help develop the belief in a future vision.

So here is the principle we teach in the Welder Leader Program:

A vision doesn’t guarantee a team will get where it wants to go, but they certainly won’t get there without one. 

Here are 3 things you can do for both the short-term and the long-term to help your team choose to be disciplined in order to achieve your vision.

Define the Vision.

A vision is a clear goal plus a completion date. What is a big goal that you see for your team and by when do you want to complete it? As an example, Elon Musk told his team at SpaceX, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.” Now I have no clue if they are going to get there by 2025 but he has given his people an excellent vision to work toward and it helps them come to work every day and make decisions to make that vision become a reality. Your vision could have a shorter timeline to execution or it could be a smaller goal but the important thing is defining it.

Communicate it Relentlessly.

Having a vision that is out of this world does no good if it’s not communicated relentlessly to your team. People need to hear it and see it in order for them to take ownership. Communicate your vision to the entire team, then make it visible for people to see it all the time. It could be written on walls in the office, in email signatures, etc. If you only communicate your vision once, it will not get the job done.

Work Towards Small Wins.

Reaching a big vision sometimes takes years, if not decades. Always look for small wins on the road to reaching the vision so people know they are making positive progress. As an example, the team should begin to see small wins or encouraging moments to ensure the team is moving in the right direction. No win is too small to celebrate or communicate because the road to get where you are trying to go will be filled with road bumps.

5 Steps of Creating a Great Culture Webinar: Join John on a live Webinar November 14th at 12PM EST as he goes over the 5 C’s of a Welder Culture and specific things you can do to help build a positive culture in your organization. Limited space available register here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on Instagram @johngeades.