How to Develop The Most Underrated Leadership Skill

Conceptual image of business vision and leadership

Leadership, in many ways, is a journey of learning, refining, and applying a multitude of essential skills. From the moment you embrace the responsibility to lead, you’re bound to this cycle whether you know it or not. 

Skills like communicationcoachingaccountability, and relationship building show their importance rather quickly. Then others fly under the radar like emotional intelligence, empathy, and positivity that most learn through the school of hard knocks.  

As important as all these skills are to being a successful leader, there is one attribute that most people overlook and undervalue. That skill is vision. 

The most underrated and often overlooked leadership skill is vision.  

The reasons most leaders overlook vision as a leadership skill is typically one of three reasons:

  • Assume people are born as visionary
  • Assume its only for executive leaders like CEO’s
  • Have never been taught how to develop a vision

While these are common, none of these beliefs are helpful or true. However, what we have found in our research is when leaders lack vision, it limits results, reduces energy, and creates a culture that struggles to embrace change.  

When leaders lack vision, it limits results, reduces energy, and creates a culture that struggles to embrace change.  

What is Visionary Leadership?

In Building the Best, I defined leadership as inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others over an extended period of time. I want to emphasize “over an extended period of time.” It is extremely difficult to create an improved state for a long time without first delivering a vision of a vastly better future than exists today.  

The best leaders are visionaries. They have in view what is possible in the future. They rarely know precisely how their team or organization will get there, but that’s what elite execution is for. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.”  

“Vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.”

While this may sound funny, your eyes are actually the enemy of you becoming a better visionary leader. This is because they are limited to what you can physically take in. 

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Examples of Visionary Leaders

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time. 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 even though most others would say he was just mopping the floors.

In modern times, there is no better example of a visionary leader than Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. While astronauts have ventured into space for decades, Musk and his team at SpaceX are fervently working on space travel for the citizen population. Elon set out a beautiful and bold vision for his team, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.” Imagine coming to work every single day working to put human beings on Mars!

How to Develop Your Leadership Vision 

You don’t have to be the President of the United States, a janitor, or a tech titan to have a vision people can get behind. While it is true, some people may have an easier time thinking in the future tense, every single person can develop a vision and learn to see beyond what is right in front of them.

Every leader can develop their vision and learn to see beyond what is right in front of them. 

Here is how I coach leaders to lean into their vision. It starts by asking these questions: 

  • What does the future look like? 
  • What is happening on the team or in the company? 
  • How many people are joining you on the journey? 
  • What kinds of people? 
  • What is the celebration going to look like? 
  • How are you going to feel when it happens? 
  • How is your team going to react?  
  • What is your family going to say? 
  • How will the world be different? 
  • How will the lives of the people you touch in the process be different?  

Closing

Whether you have proactively thought about a vision for yourself, your team, your organization, or your family before, it’s time to leverage something I learned from one of the best visionary leaders I have watched speak, Mike Whan. Whan is the CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and he puts his vision into action by calling it, “Big Bold Leadership Initiatives” 

Here is the exercise to come up with your own Big Bold Leadership Initiatives.

Find yourself a quiet place. Put on an inspiring playlist (here is mine on Spotify), close your eyes, and envision big, bold possibilities in the future. If you need to ask yourself the questions from above. Regardless of what comes to mind, write them down. Do this exercise at the rhythm and cadence that you require. The more often you do it, the more comfortable you will get. Of course, you always know you are becoming a visionary leader when you communicate these big bold leadership initiatives and you hear people say, “No way, that is just not possible.”

Do you agree vision is the most underrated leadership skill? Tell me in the comments

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Great Leaders Believe in Success Before They See Success

Businessman building a graph or ladder of success

If you are worried about achieving success, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of people struggle to believe that the future will end with a good outcome; which is precisely why it won’t.   

The best leaders and top performers understand this important truth:

Believing success will happen doesn’t guarantee it will, but not believing ensures it won’t.  

A belief, by definition, is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. An alternative definition is; trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.

The power of this definition is constantly on display in the world of sports. Take Trae Young, the leader and best player of the Atlanta Hawks, as an example. In a pivotal game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA’s 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Young and his teammates found themselves down by 20 points heading into the 4th quarter. Instead of giving up and mailing it in to get ready for game six at home, they chose belief.  

Over the next 12 minutes of game action, the Hawks erased the deficit and overcame the long odds to win, 109-106. After the game, during the on-court interview, when asked about the comeback, Young said, “We never stop believing until the final buzzer goes off.”

Young’s words unlock the fact that great leaders believe it before they see it, and just because they think it, doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Seeing it Makes it Easy to Believe, But Rarely Does it Happen

In a 1950’s study, Harvard professor Dr. Curt Richter placed rats in a pool of water to test how long they could tread water. On average, they would give up after 15 minutes. 

Just before giving up due to exhaustion, the researchers would pull them out of the water, dry them off, let them take a rest, and then put them back in the water for a second round.  

In this second attempt, the rats didn’t tread for 15 minutes; they lasted for 60 hours on average!

There is no denying that psychology is a complicated field of study, but just by experiencing and seeing they were going to be pulled out of the water when they got tired, the rats lasted 240 times longer.  Unfortunately, leaders rarely have the luxury of testing the waters of success.  

Great leaders and top performers know they must believe before they achieve.

Train Your Brain the Same Way You Build Skills

There is no denying that believing something that hasn’t yet happened is difficult, which is why most people don’t do it. Instead, they use a strategy of hope, but as Rick Page used to say, “hope isn’t a strategy.”  

To believe excellent outcomes will happen well before they do takes training. You must build the belief in your brain the same way you build technical skills. It requires mental reps, affirmations, and building habits around looking for the good in things. It also requires you to look beyond your past experiences.  

On a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss show, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, said, “I could see how constraining my beliefs were by creating my future from the past.” Not only is Wilson right, but the best way to believe is not to look back but to look forward.

The best leaders are visionaries because they can easily manifest future possibilities. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.” Your eyes and your past are the enemy regarding building belief and becoming a visionary leader. 

Your eyes and past are the enemies regarding becoming a visionary leader.

There aren’t many secrets or shortcuts to increasing your belief except one: Set goals you care about achieving.

The Power of Goal Setting

Whether you lead a team or want to increase your personal belief, setting short and long-term goals is a phenomenal strategy. It will force you to think about the future and challenge you to define things you and your team want to accomplish. 

Even if you or the team fails to meet the goals, there is a 100% chance you learned from the failure, and got closer to achieving it. There are all kinds of incredible goal-setting systems and formulas; however, instead of regurgitating SMART goals or something similar, I want you to consider writing down one goal for yourself or your team today. Use your favorite formula or the one I wrote about in Building the Best:

Clear Objective + Completion Date + Carrot.

Closing

Regardless of your faith or religious background, there is a scripture in the Bible that says, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” There is nothing easy about having belief in something we can’t see; but, just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  

Today, challenge yourself to define a new goal, keep it visible, and invite others to hold you accountable. You will be amazed at what you or your team will see in the future!

Do you agree? If so, how do you believe something in order to help make it happen?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Stay Involved But Avoid Being a Micromanager

Conceptual image of business hierarchy

Remote work has put managers in a precarious position. The natural distance between leaders and their people has many managers defaulting to a style that isn’t in line with what the best leaders do.  

I hear from managers all the time; “I hire the best people and let them do their work.” While this makes sense on the surface, I don’t know one high performer who doesn’t leverage a coach to help them perform. Let’s use athletes as an example. The best golfers in the world have instructors to help them hone their craft. The best basketball players in the world have head coaches that create systems for them to play at their best.  

Talented professionals that are high-performers are no different. They need a leader to help create a positive culture and to challenge them to higher performance levels.

Great leaders are involved in helping their teams be successful.

Be Involved But Don’t Micromanage

For the sake of clarity, let’s get clear on what it means to be a micromanager. Webster defines it as; “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details”.

It is common for micromanagers to have narcissistic or perfectionist tendencies which can influence how they delegate work to their team. These managers don’t believe the work can be done properly by anyone but themselves. Micromanagers typically take credit for a team’s great results but are just as ready to pass the blame for negative results.

Being a micromanager is not what the best leaders do; but, at least they are involved (albeit too frequently and in the wrong way). If you are ready to be involved in the right ways as a manager here are a few ideas:

Define a Vision that Creates Excitement

When Dabo Swinney interviewed to be the head football coach at Clemson University, many board members had the vision to raise the program to levels like some of the blue bloods of college football. Instead of echoing that vision, Swinney squashed it. “Best is the standard I want to see here. I am not setting out to be like someone else. I am here to create a new standard in college football.” It sounded crazy at the time, but 10+ years later, Swinney and the Clemson Tigers have made that vision a reality. 

Simon Sinek famously said: “great leaders must have two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate that vision clearly.” Even if you don’t see yourself as a visionary leader, giving your team a picture of a world that doesn’t exist today, is a worthwhile aspiration.

Involve them in short-term measurable goals

After interviewing hundreds of the best leaders on the planet to write Building the Best, it is clear that great leaders understand two simple things about goal setting. First, they know how important goals are; the true meaning of the word “team” means “coming together as a group to achieve a common goal.” Second, they set goals that their team cares about achieving.

Great leaders define short term goals their team cares about achieving.

Research has revealed that setting challenging and specific goals further enhance employee engagement in attaining those goals. Google uses Objectives and Key Results (OKR’s) to help managers and their teams perform better. Many companies have been working hard to provide leaders with the tools to be successful in setting short term measurable goals for remote work. 

I have been using Peoplebox.ai and couldn’t be more impressed with aligning my team to short term measurable goals. If you don’t have a tool, now is the time, especially if you lead a remote team.

Coach like You’re a Carriage

One of the ways a leader positively involves and separates themselves as a manager is by coaching their people. A coach is someone who trains and instructs. The word coach comes from “carriage,” which means to take someone from where they are today to where they want to go.

It is impossible to be an effective carriage when you are completely hands-off. Instead, it requires you to be in tune with the effort, performance, and mindset of each team member, and look for ways to help them improve.  

Sometimes this means knowing when to be quiet; other times, it means asking thought-provoking questions. Here are a few of my favorite coaching questions to add to your arsenal:

  • Could you walk me through your thought process?
  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • What other approaches might you take next time?

Connect Before you Correct

If you don’t know about the importance of love and discipline in your leadership style, you might be making a huge mistake.

It’s essential to understand what love and discipline are; both are in the context of leadership.

Love is to contribute to someone’s long term success and well being (to will the good of another)

Discipline is to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at their best.”

In leadership, one is more important than the other. The reason is simple, because you have to connect before you correct. 

Closing

Hiring the right people to help run your business is always going to be important; but, don’t let your confidence in the skills of your team cause you to fall into the trap of being absent as their leader. Your involvement is necessary for the success of the team and the business; it is finding the balance in that involvement which will take both to new heights.  

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Download the Leading Remote Teams Toolkit for free Here.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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.

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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.

4 Timeless Things a Leader Can Do to Improve Immediately

Unfortunately, we have a lot of bad frontline leaders in our organizations and it comes at a tremendous cost. Here are 4 timeless things a leader can do to improve immediately.

  1. Remember the Purpose of Leadership – Leadership is about serving and empowering other people.
  2. Build Relationships Based on Trust – Trust is the ultimate human currency
  3. Envision a Better Future – Team members need a vision of a better state in the future
  4. Define Clear Standards – A Standard is ‘defining what good looks like’

Learn how LearnLoft can help your organization here.

The Unforgivables Most Leaders Get Wrong

In the year 1988, there was a small and struggling company that couldn’t quite find its way in the world. It was purchased for $3.6M by a man and group of investors that had big dreams and a great vision for the company. Fast forward to today. The little struggling company went on to expand to 10,000 stores in 75 countries and has one of the most recognizable brands. Can you guess the company?

If you guessed Starbucks, you’re correct. The man was Howard Schultz and Starbucks transformation can be attributed to Schultz’s leadership.

“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners.” – Howard Schultz

Starbucks is a perfect example of what is possible when a leader gets the formula right. They set themselves up with a foundation to be successful that gives their people a fighting chance — not only to be successful but to be fulfilled in the work that they do.

Here’s the formula Schultz attributes his success to:

  1. Start with a vision and core purpose of being
  2. Know success is best when it’s shared
  3. Create a culture and set of values where people feel they are a part of something larger than themselves
  4. Treat people with great respect
  5. Exceed the expectation of your people so they exceed the expectation of your customers.

After studying Schultz and interviewing other successful leaders on the Follow My Lead Podcast, we’ve identified our own list – a formula called the “Unforgivables”. These are a list of things, which under no circumstance can a leader be forgiven for lack of. They simply must get these things right. The list consists of 8 core elements and here is a brief description of each:

Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of the work they do, they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do.Purpose driven teams continually outperform companies that lack purpose. Purpose is knowing, WHY you do what you do.

Mission

Having a mission that the team is willing to buy into and agree on will ensure your team is fulfilled – which ultimately impacts their performance over time. It follows a simple formula. We do X in order to achieve Y for Z.

Vision

Vision is clearly important in leadership but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It boils down to, a clear goal and a completion date.

Strategy

There are many different strategies to getting results, but which will get you there the fastest, most efficient way with the best outcome? Answer: by having a well thought out strategy that’s nimble enough to change based on the current environment.

Values

Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what’s important in life. We all believe values are important to have as individuals, but they are just as important for the team.

Beliefs

Beliefs are judgments – things a team believes to be true or fact. Sometimes beliefs become very strongly entrenched or emotional. In this way, beliefs can influence our behaviors, even our thoughts, in very powerful ways.

Leaders will be forgiven for a lot of things because they are human just like everyone but getting the “unforgivables” wrong, is something I am just not sure they should be forgiven for.

Modern Leadership Online Course The Modern Leadership microlearning course is designed to help leaders in the 21st century get better performance out of their teams. Check it out risk-free today or host a Modern Leadership Workshop in your organization.

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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, a contributing editor on Inc.com, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

How Leaders Can Communicate Their Vision

All great leaders have an uncanny ability to see a better future and impart that vision into others. So it’s simple, a leadership vision is some sense of what the future and getting others to believe that vision is possible.  Think of Elon Musk of SpaceX, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.”  What an amazing vision for his people to buy into and work towards.

This is our journey on how we are working to make our vision become a reality.  Hopefully you can learn some best practices to put into place in your own teams.

 

Learn more at about ‘High Performance Leadership’ for you or your team here.

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5 Ways to Lead Like Jon Snow

Contrary to one of the most famous quotes from Game of Thrones (said by Ygritte), “You know nothing Jon Snow,” Jon Snow actually knows quite a bit about how to lead.

Yes, I know Jon is a fictional character on the most popular TV show in the world, but he’s about as good of an example of leadership you will find. For those unfamiliar with this legendary figure, Jon is a man of great character that doesn’t let hubris get in the way of leading. Ned Stark, Jon’s father, taught all his children about leadership, selflessness, duty, and honor.

Whether you are a Game of Thrones fan or not, there is much to learn from Jon Snow. Here’s how you can lead like Jon Snow:

Have a Grand Vision and Communicate It

After being elected as the 998 Lord Commander of The Night’s Watch, Snow assessed the current situation in conjunction with future challenges and opportunities. He set a vision for his men to believe in – one that described what The Night’s Watch had to become in order to be successful in the future. Often times, having a vision that’s different than the status quo or far off from a current state creates its own set of challenges. Having said that, if your vision isn’t grand or bold enough people won’t be excited about following it. There have been countless examples of real world leaders and amazing visionaries who transformed industries and worlds (Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and John F. Kennedy).  You must constantly ask yourself:

“Is my vision grand enough to inspire action?”

Be Courageous in the Face of Uncertainty

Jon’s vision meant putting himself and his people in grave danger.  Instead of sitting back and sending his team out to make the vision become a reality, he put himself on the front lines.  Although we aren’t up against Wildlings and White Walkers, companies today do face some terrifying situations. Many companies are in the midst of big transitions trying to reinvent themselves before someone else does it for them.  It’s a scary to venture into uncharted waters. In the professional world you can show courage by getting out from behind your desk and leading by example.

Adapt to the Current Conditions

Jon is constantly adapting based on the current conditions. He took a life-threatening mission to build an alliance with the Wildlings, a long standing enemy of his people. He knew in his heart it was the only way for his people to be successful. The point here is that Jon is the ultimate believer in the worst words anyone can say, “We have always done it this way.”  Don’t fall into the trap of doing things the way they have always been done. Stick to your conviction about values and character, but be flexible in other matters that will help move the business forward.

Understand Failure is Part of the Equation

Jon paid the ultimate price when a group of his own men (who didn’t agree with his vision) took his life in what was called the “Mutiny at the Black Castle.”  [SPOILER ALERT] Thanks to some divine intervention, he was brought back to life. We don’t all get second chances, but all leaders need experience failure in order to be ready to lead. In the recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, David Hughes talked about the importance of a “Waterloo” moment for all leaders. These are the moments in which you fail, but the lessons learned prepare you to be a better leader in the future. Instead of beating yourself up, take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and be a better leader in the future.

Hold Your People Accountable

After Jon returned to life, he had the opportunity to hold his men accountable for their actions.  While it seemed to pain him, he made them pay the ultimate price. The point is, holding people accountable is a pillar to being a successful leader.  This means having open lines of communication about what is expected of each member of your team and holding them accountable to that standard. Obviously, hangings are frowned upon in the corporate world, but there should be clearly defined consequences for not meeting expectations. Here is a brief 2-minute leadership video on how to hold people accountable.

With his leadership skills, Jon Snow is my pick for the ruler of The Iron Throne. Regardless of whether you agree with me, hopefully you can learn from Jon Snow and weave these 5 Leadership best practices into your life.

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping professionals understand what leadership is all about and how to get to a leadership position faster. Find out more here.

John Eades is the President of LearnLoft and Host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is passionate about the development of people. He writes, and speaks about modern leadership and learning techniques.  You can find him on  snapchat @johngeades.