When it comes to visionary leadership, they say “sight” is seeing the seeds in the apple, while “vision” is seeing the apples in the seeds.
In Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game, he talks about how critical it is for leaders to play the game (leading a business) with an infinite mindset rather than a finite one. In a finite game, like football for example, there is a defined beginning, ending, time limit, score, players, etc. It’s easier to create a plan for how to win, and it’s even easier to determine who won—the final score!
But business is rarely a finite game.
And leaders should ensure that it isn’t. But too many of us do just that by focusing almost exclusively on the finite pieces of our business—market share, loan demand, revenue, gross margin, peer analysis, capital, CAMEL ratings and the like.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with managing these important metrics, we should take care to ensure our mindset is not locked around them.
Your greatest obligation is to set the vision for the organization.
General Lori Robinson, who in 2018 retired as the highest-ranking female in the U.S. military at the time, explains that the responsibility of the most senior person in an organization is to look beyond the organization. She said that with each new position she took, she felt that her primary job as the leader was to look out and up. Everyone else’s primary responsibility was to look down and in. What did she mean? As the chief executive, the greatest obligation you have is to set the vision for the organization—then share that vision with your team…and the world.
Why does your organization exist? What do you do for people and how do you make their lives better? For the community? For the greater good? This is thinking with an infinite mindset. This is your North Star. Every decision, each strategic initiative, and every task from the C-suite to the frontlines should be in service of your infinite vision.
Each senior leader should be the CVO—Chief Vision Officer.
Sinek also makes the point (and uses real-world examples) that often when CFOs and COOs that are “next in line” for the top job finally get the CEO gig, they tend to continue to think and lead with a finite mindset. They lean into their core competency that made them so successful—the numbers, the operations, the processes, the efficiencies, etc. In so doing, they change the game to a finite one. It’s hard to rally a team around those finite objectives.
And the thing is, at some point, you’ll either hit those numbers or you won’t—either way, the game changes to the next finite thing. This constant moving of the goal posts creates confusion among your staff and members and customers. As author and marketing expert Donald Miller says, when you confuse, you lose.
So what’s a leader to do? In his book Traction, Gino Wickman echoes Sinek’s advice that there must be the leader (hopefully the CEO) that can cast the vision, an infinite one, and champion it always. There also needs to be that leader that works in tandem with the visionary to craft the plan, strategy, objectives and run the day-to-day operations to ensure that every single move is in the direction of that vision. Wickman calls this leader(s) the integrator. Successful organizations have both—visionaries and integrators.
How to be the visionary.
If you’re the CEO, or if you aspire to that critical role, think big. Think infinitely. It’s the integrator’s job to manage the daily, weekly, monthly, annual numbers that may have once been your bread and butter. That’s no longer the thing we need most from you. We need your vision. Connect us to the purpose. Doing so will rally us to do great work for a just cause. And when we’re all rowing in the same direction toward that infinite goal, you know what happens? The finite numbers take care of themselves. Let others look down and in. You? You look up and out. But most importantly—tell us what you see.