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7 Qualities Every Powerful Visionary Has in Common
AdobeStock / seanlockephotography
Kayla Heisler
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What happens when tried-and-true methods aren’t working as well as they did in the past? It may be time to shake things up, and there’s no one better for that job than a visionary. 

What does it mean to be a visionary?

Visionaries are creative and insightful people who frequently consider and plan for the future. Rather than remain content with what systems have been useful in the past, they work to understand how to adapt to the future. Visionaries are innovators who favor investigating and experimenting with new procedures over repeating past techniques. 

What is a visionary leadership style?

Visionary leaders work to innovate, and their desire propels their team forward. Visionary leaders are not content to keep companies as what they are, but are interested in what they could become. Fortunately, for those working under a visionary leader, their belief in evolving systems means that they are more likely to encourage their team members to think outside of the box and bring in their own skills instead of forcing them to fit into a rigid structure that’s been done before. 

7 qualities of a visionary leader

1. They’re open to other opinions.

Staying in your own mind can be limiting, so visionary leaders constantly seek out views from other people to make sure that they have as many information channels open as possible. Hearing different perspectives allows them to approach problems from many different angles.

2. They focus on the big picture.

Rather than getting bogged down by the weight of small setbacks or being satisfied with short-term victories, visionary leaders keep their ultimate goal in mind while making decisions. Staying focused on the prize allows them to do what has never been done before because they refuse to settle for just the basics.

3. They’re strategic.

While it may seem at first glance that visionary leaders will try literally anything while pursuing a goal, in actuality, they have specific reasons for every move they make. They pay close attention to what plans are successful and learn from their failures to gain more positive outcomes in the future.

4. They enjoy searching for solutions.

Visionary leaders don’t run from challenges — they welcome them. They see problems as puzzles just waiting to be solved. Those who are innovative gain a sense of satisfaction from confronting roadblocks head-on.

5. They’re resilient.

You’re bound to make mistakes at some point when you try to accomplish something that’s never been done before. Rather than becoming discouraged, visionary leaders regroup and refocus their teams when things don’t go the way hope. Visionary leaders rebound and get back to the drawing board.

6. Uncertainty doesn’t hold them back.

They don’t understand the point in executing a plan where the outcome is obvious. Instead, they look for solutions when they don’t know what will happen. Sometimes it works well; sometimes it backfires, but they understand how to find value in any outcome.

7. They constantly brainstorm.

Visionary leaders are incessantly thinking not only about what the future will hold, but the best way that they can solve the problems that will appear. Their minds continually work to discover the best way to get things done.

Visionary strengths and weaknesses

As is true about many things in life, being a visionary comes with both positive and negative consequences. One weakness associated with visionaries is the issue of overlooking important details in the present as a result of overly focusing on outcomes in the future. Another fault that can arise in visionary thinking is an increased risk for experiencing burnout. Unsurprisingly, constantly inventing new methods and forecasting the future requires more effort than simply doing what’s always been done and letting things play out however they may. 

Benefits of being a visionary include keeping morale up for other team members. Working with someone who truly believes in what they are doing is typically a more refreshing experience than working with someone without a sense of purpose. Whether working as a team leader or member, visionaries serve as an innovative, breath of fresh air who can facilitate coming up with exciting solutions together. Visionaries enjoy working hard to find solutions and see the value in hard work. An ideal time to bring in a visionary leader is during a major transition, since they will likely to be able to streamline moving things in a new direction.

5 best practices to becoming a visionary

1. Start taking small risks.

One of the first keys to being a visionary is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more you acclimate yourself to taking small risks, the more you will be able to take leaps of faiths later. Make it a point to step out of your comfort zone more often until it becomes second nature.

2. Brainstorm potential problems — and come up with multiple solutions.

Get used to anticipating problems, but don’t let their possibility scare you. Rather than allowing the potential of a failure consume you, have a list of how to recover ready to go.

3. Research often.

Stay as informed as you can about what’s happening in your field. What are today’s experts saying? What are other visionaries predicting? What strategies have succeeded in the past, and what strategies have failed? Make it a point to understand patterns of the past to better project what will happen in the future.

4. Consider multiple points of view.

Break out of any echo chambers you may have found yourself in. Listen to what others from different backgrounds, in different fields, with different opinions from yourself have to say about various topic. You never know who will give you the insight to have a major breakthrough.

5. Seek out other visionaries. 

Birds of a feather flock together! If you find yourself in constant communication with those who hold tight to traditional methods of how to do things, it will be harder to think of creative solutions and to imagine all that the future will potentially encompass. Being in a space that is more generative than restrictive will provide an environment where your innovative views are more likely to flourish.

Though not everyone is born a visionary, it’s possible that anyone can adapt visionary qualities. By doing so, solving problems before they’re out of control and moving forward will create a smoother road forward.

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology. 

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