Why Vision Is a Leader’s Most Important Skill (1/2)

What makes a great company?


Every industry has various companies competing for market share.


Yet, there always seem to be a few outliers. These companies dominate and make it hard for competitors to displace them.


Vast hours have been dedicated to answering this question. The best academics and consultants have all tried to figure it out. With good reason – 80% of entrepreneurs fail within 18 months of business.


But nobody can agree on a single, definitive factor. Business can’t be reduced to a simple formula.


Instead, there are many factors colluding to create the stopping power of the most successful businesses. Factors such as team, market and customer demands.


There is one factor that brings them all together, however. There is a metaphorical  ‘glue’ that gives meaning, direction and coordination to the various elements of successful business.  


The ‘glue’ i’m referring to is vision.


By providing a destination and purpose for the organization, a powerful vision is capable of bringing people together to define an industry.


Destination and purpose


Vision acts as the destination and purpose of an organization’s existence.


Where do you want to end up?


In order to make progress towards something, you have to know what you are aiming for.


You need a target – a goal.


Vision represents a combination of the two. It is having a moving target that you are continually trying to hit. And also, an idealistic endgame.


Vision represents how your company moves on a day to day basis. It’s the driving force that energizes your people as they build products and interact with customers.


It also represents the big why – the big change that you want to see in the world.


If we actualize our vision, how will the world be different?


Understanding vision


The story of Steve Jobs has been told countless times. It’s been dissected and taught throughout business schools. It’s even been made into movie (more than one actually).


But the reason why it’s effective is that the message is clear and easy to understand.


Especially if we want to define and understand vision.


Source: Engadget


Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak changed the world. They built one of the most successful companies of all time. They named it Apple, Inc.


The name itself doesn’t seem fit for a computer company. Had they been working with business consultants at the time, they would have walked out in protest.


But the name itself gives insight into where Jobs was coming from.


He wanted to be different. He wanted to challenge the status quo. He was the ‘square peg’ that society wanted to fit in the ‘round hole’. He rejected this idea.


He believed that personal computers should be in the hands of everyday people.  Not just business executives. He wanted to empower the masses by giving them tools to advance the mind. He wanted these computers to have an intuitive user experience – designed for the everyday person. He wanted to beautify and democratize access to technology.


That was his vision.


The how, the why and the what


In his best selling book, ‘Start With the Why’, Simon Sinek created a model that encapsulates what vision is.


Source: Simon Sinek


In what he calls the golden circle, there are three aspects: the why, the how and the what. Here is some further clarity:


  • The Why – This circle represents the problem or need you are solving. It also represents the shift in the status quo that you are trying to bring about. You could be solving the problem of internet connectivity in Africa. But your broader why is to bring the human family together.
  • The HowAlone, the why of your vision is just a dream. There needs to be a pragmatic road map that leads to the achievement of the why. This is the building aspect where processes and systems are put in place to achieve the vision.
  • The WhatThe final circle refers to the output of the two inner circles. What is the product or service that is being built in relation to the vision? What are the features that allows it to solve that particular problem?


Starting with why


Having vision is about the why of what you do. The best businesses are laser focused on the problem they are solving. But they go further. They have a definitive mission which goes beyond that particular problem. And ideally, they define a new status quo. 


Here are some examples of company vision and their why:


Facebook – To give people the power to share and make the world more connected.


Apple – To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind. (This was quoted from Steve Jobs as his original vision).


Google – To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.


Amazon – To be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.


TED – To spread ideas.


None of these vision statements talk about what they do. Nor do they mention how they do it. But in the background, these are the factors that allowed them to achieve the why. Hence, the why, how and what are all interconnected and codependent.


Google doesn’t speak of the complexities that their search algorithms have. But it’s this robust technology that allowed them to organize the world’s information. This despite there being others on the same mission.


Apple’s original vision statement isn’t about how aesthetic their products are – although this was a core part of how they achieved their vision. Instead, there is a greater feeling of revolution and empowerment. Great user experience was just a means to achieve that.


In all, although the how and what of vision is important (critical to achieving it), the why has to come first. Otherwise, there is no concrete destination to build towards.


Becoming a visionary


In the next part, we’ll expand on why vision is important. We’ll talk through how entrepreneurs with vision are better suited to navigate the challenges of business. We will also take a look at practical steps that you can use to develop your vision.


If you feel you need hands on help, Argopreneurs offers a 1-3 day workshop that will allow you to create a sustainable corporate vision. We will help you set your entrepreneurial goals and define the steps required to get there.


Reach out to us today by email or phone for a quick chat.