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So, can you really learn how to become a visionary leader? Is it nature, nurture or both? Contemporary thinking endorses that it’s more likely to be a combination. After all, if genetic predisposition was the only factor, then there would be ready-made visionary leaders all around us, fully equipped to take on the role. There are of course certain traits that are necessary, and these may come more naturally to some people than others. However, for the past 20 years, since raised by Stogdill, (Bass and Stogdill Handbook of Leadership) it is accepted that environment significantly impacts on how these traits develop. Traits such as creativity, risk-taking, intuition, and tenacity, to name but a few. Visionary leadership is therefore a personal choice and something you can grow into.

Be aware of our surroundings

How do you identify with these characteristics and what role does your environment have to play? One incredibly powerful approach is to start by being aware and engaging with nature. As a human being we are all codependent with the existence of our surroundings. For example, we are here because of the sun, the water, the air we breathe, the soil beneath our feet, gravity, our parents etc. But how to become a visionary leader goes beyond that. The mobile phone we use to check our emails has been invented by others and created from mined resources which have been touched by many hands. If you fine tune into this mindfulness, we’ll find ourselves not only in nature, but completely interdependent with it.

Once open to these connections and the realization that everything around us supports us, we can grow your inner leader and vision and make confident decisions with the bigger picture always in mind. As we spend more time focusing on our environment, we feed our inner curiosity, gain empathy and energize our life goals. 

Be tenacious

'The great mountain when seen from a distance shall always seem closer to us but to get to it, and to climb to its apex to get the best view, we may need to take and experience the real walk with resilience and tenacity.' Ernest Agyemang Yeboah, (Distinctive Footprints of Life).

Sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves that the greatest organisations, most successful projects and best products were conceived in the mind of a visionary, who probably didn’t have much money, but when they saw the opportunity, they not only grabbed it with both hands they saw it through with absolute tenacity. So when asking how to become a visionary leader, we should look, learn and gain inspiration from others.

Take, for example, a great visionary leader in the news recently – Michael Young. In 1961, whilst working as a lecturer at Cambridge University and completely aware of his surroundings, he noticed that the college facilities were empty for around six months of the year. This mindfulness led to an idea to create a second Cambridge in order to utilise these vacant spaces. The aim would be to create a second tier of the university, one for the folk who previously hadn’t had the opportunity of a higher education.

Unfortunately for one reason and another, this proposal was met with complete contempt. Michael subsequently tried the idea out on other faculties, whose facilities were also unused for half a year. Again, though, they were equally as dismissive. At this point, many would give up. Not Michael. He concluded that the only way to realise his vision was to turn the problem, of not having a campus, on its head; i.e. to do this without buildings. The education could be delivered in a completely different way – via television and telephone. So, in 1963 he wrote an article called ‘Where?’ This set out the vision for the ‘Open University’, which is now delivered using the Internet and is one of the UK’s national treasures.

Learn and develop optimism

Visionary leaders, by their very nature, must inspire others. That’s not to say there won’t always be problems and obstacles along the way. A strong leader will be able to turn around any negative morale and help people to have a positive outlook. After all, who would willingly follow a naysayer’s vision? When learning how to become a visionary leader, we need to consider our ability to gain a good perspective on the reality and the ideal. It goes without saying that when an organisation or idea loses confidence its demise is certain.  

So what if someone describes themselves as a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, does that mean they cannot become a visionary leader? On the contrary, like any talent, optimism can be learnt and a positive psychology can be cultivated by consciously challenging any pessimistic self-talk. As Alex Lickerman said in his article ‘How Optimism Can be Learned’ in Psychology Magazine Today, by changing our self-explanatory style we can make a significant difference to any outcome.

Seek synergies

We are all connected. It therefore makes sense that the concept of synergy, as in nature, will see the collective efforts of beings achieve much more than those of an individual. Look and we will see synergy occurring all around. From the bees taking nectar from flowers and the plants pollinated in return to intestinal bacteria breaking down digestible material and in return being indirectly fed from the host eating food, the positive effects of synergy are happening continuously. All of these relationships are interwoven and underpins life itself. 

Recognising synergy is therefore fundamental to how to become a visionary leader. All of our connections, once witnessed can be harnessed to shape our vision. Rather than looking at one person, plant, chemical, project, product or idea can do alone, seek out what more can do together to create a more powerful result. 

Transform the way you think, react and lead

At HotHouse we relate to a future being shaped by collaboration, diversification and the development of endless possibility. Visionary leadership can form from taking an adventure and learning from the natural world. We offer a creative leadership programme and a course on the nature of leadership, which uses nature as a point of reference and environment to release new ideas, new thinking and possibility.