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Business Management

Published on August 25th, 2014 | by Sophie Mitchell


Why Do Many Leaders Struggle To Create A Business Vision?

During the many and varied discussions I have with business leaders, one key point which is consistently raised and agreed upon is that effective leadership centres upon a business clear vision for the organisation. Whether it is a CEO, COO, Managing Director or finance leader with whom I am speaking, this is the general consensus.

Business Vision: not to be mistaken for strategy

It is important to remember that vision and strategy are different, with vision being the company’s goal and strategy the journey taken to reach this.  Having a clear understanding of the distinction between these is essential. Put simply, a vision is the ‘what’ and the strategy is the ’how’. To sight an example, a vision could be “to provide the best customer experience in our sector globally”, and the strategy to underpin this would involve the different steps a business would take to reach this, across people, processes, technology and culture.

Leadership: a natural ability

Leadership ability is something which people naturally possess, the strength of which grows through nurture and experience. Sadly, many senior executives fail due to the fact that they have been promoted based upon their ability to deliver a specific role, as opposed to their natural talent as a leader. Therefore being visionary is something with which they struggle since they are not “natural born leaders”. Where someone may be good at leading one discipline area – for example, an engineering director being an effective engineering leader for a business – they may not have the ability to step up into the role of whole business leader. This kind of “mis-promotion” can be detrimental to the business, because this individual does not have the ability to create or deliver a vision. In this scenario, many businesses look to the interim model to rescue the business, provide a clear vision and sense of direction, and the leadership to execute this.

Business-wide belief

When creating a vision, some key questions for leaders to ask include:

-          Does this business vision fit with the current structure of the organisation?

-          What level of complexity and ambiguity exits?

-          What potential resistance will there be to it?

-          Who are the key personalities who will resist or champion the vision?

-          How is the vision best communicated internally and externally?

A business vision should be simple and clear, and should be known and owned across the whole business. From the CEO to the cleaner, the whole business should understand the vision in order for it to be embedded and sustainable. A vision without engagement and business-wide belief is no vision at all.

During the recession, many companies partook in M&A activity; many smaller businesses only surviving as a result of this, where they otherwise might not have done. Whilst these businesses focused on integrating their structures, people and technology in order to merge, the success of effective integration also centred upon a clear and unified vision, championed by a strong business leadership. The cultural and people aspects of such a process are the most complex and most challenging, and by providing people with clarity of direction, they are far more likely to comply and follow.

Keep an open mind

Lastly, within an ever transformational market, successful leaders must always remain open minded, responsive and fully informed of the outside world, in order to adjust their approach as necessary. A move towards a more global approach to business, digitisation and considering wider macro-economic events, are critical factors for any leader. Whilst staying true to their vision, effective leaders are constantly focused on business improvement and market responsiveness, and remain open to a change of direction where the market makes it necessary. The strategy can change, but the vision should not.

Have you been responsible for creating a business vision and implementing it? What do you think of Sophie’s thoughts above? Join the discussion and share your views using the comments box below.

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About the Author

As Head of the General Management practice, Sophie works closely with a variety of clients across the private and public sector, delivering innovative interim management solutions to their organisations. Typical requirements include change and transformation, business improvement, mergers and acquisitions and growth and leadership. She works with have a range of interim managers including Managing Directors, CEOs, Board Members and high level General Managers, all who have a proven track record of delivery.

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