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.

The Most Important Conversation a Leader Can Have

I looked up nearly in tears as my manager finished his 30-minute berating rant about my performance, and all I could focus on was the exit sign in the distance. It was my only outlet at that point. I was chasing a goal arbitrarily set by my manager, that I had no chance of achieving unless something miraculous happened.

Whether you have been in a performance-driven sales role or not, you can relate to having a manager provide results-oriented goals with no clear purpose, vision, or mission behind them.

It’s shocking how many bosses still live in a world where it’s “do as I say and don’t ask questions.” What’s worse is when you do what they say and you don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, it somehow is entirely your fault or just a major lack of skill.

Here is a simple conversation construct that all leaders must have with their people in order to avoid these bad situations and set their leader-employee relationship up for major success.

Why are we here.

Steve Jobs said, “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” It’s a leaders job to communicate a purpose to their team that helps them wake up every morning thinking how lucky they are to be doing what they are doing. Without a purpose, there is really no reason for a team to follow you. Does your team know the reason you are on this journey?

What Do We Do and for Whom.

Leadership expert Roderic Yapp, says it beautifully, “A Mission is simply what you do and for whom.” It should be stated in very simple language and is used to keep you focused on the right activities. So simply, mission is the following equation:

Mission= We do X in order to achieve Y for Z

The mission of Rod’s business, Leadership Forces is ‘to develop leaders in fast-growing companies who are able to deliver business performance’. Have you communicated what your teams mission is to your people, if so could they repeat it?

Where are we going.

Like the old saying “ When you are lost, any old map will do.” Great leadership entails vision, because without it we don’t know where we are leading people. If leaders can’t communicate direction effectively, then we have no right to ask people to join us on the journey. A vision takes into account the current status and paints a clear picture of a future state that will be successful by a certain timeline.

Just this week, Elon Musk the famous SpaceX CEO said “We are going to land people on Mars, by 2025.” I have no clue if they are going to get there and I am certain I won’t be one of the people on the spaceship, but I have little doubt that his team has a clear vision and timeline to make it happen.

What do we expect from each other.

Most people have heard of the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. If you haven’t, check out this video. Too often people are unclear about what is expected of them and how they are going to be held accountable. The best leader-employee conversation I ever heard was simple and it went something like this: “These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, this is what I am going to commit to doing for you and this is what I expect back in return. If either of us don’t meet these standards we both have the right to call each other out.” Simple, straight to the point, and clear – the only way expectations and accountability can work.

Have a conversation with your team where you clearly and confidently answer these four questions. When you do so, your professional relationships with your team will improve and the results will follow.

Online Leadership Programs. LearnLoft’s out of the box training online approach to helping professionals improve their business performance. Find out more about ‘Getting Leadership Ready’ here and their new program ‘High Performance Leadership’ here.