Who is a visionary?
A visionary is someone who can predict how a society, economy, or other entity will develop in the future and make appropriate plans. Visionaries are always thinking creatively and in advance. They can foresee the future and create solutions that correspond to that vision. Visionaries are change-makers, innovators, and thought leaders.
In ways large and small, they fight. They disrupt. They take risks. They push boundaries to change how we see or live in the world. Some create new enterprises, while others develop their groundbreaking ideas within an existing one.
From Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, the accomplishments of great visionaries over the centuries have filled history books. More currently, from Jeff Bezos of Amazon to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of SpaceX & Tesla Motors, they are the objects of endless media fascination — and increasingly intense public scrutiny. The importance of analyzing the story of these visionaries is to learn from their ups & downs, success & failure throughout their life journey.
Visionary Thinking: A Key To Honing Our Leadership Skill
Visionary thinkers face the world by considering all that can be rather than just what is. They construct a mental world with a defined mission and vision. This develops the discipline to focus on what’s essential for the future. Visionary thinking is beneficial for everyone. It plays a significant role in managing uncertainty and tuning into opportunities in our environment to reach our goals.
We can cultivate our capacity for visionary thought. Certain actions, routines, and habits encourage creative thinking. Reframing our life experiences is the first exercise. Visionaries alter their perspective of the world, giving them the freedom to always see opportunities. The second practice involves dissecting our vision to see where we’re going clearly. A visionary leader fosters confidence, communicates a sense of purpose for the group, and thinks ahead. For visionary thinkers, the capacity to create and articulate a compelling vision is a necessary tool.
Qualities of Visionary Leaders
“Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there – setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks.” – Daniel Goleman
One quality of visionary leaders is the unique way they perceive the world. A visionary leadership style embraces the unknown as a blank canvas for innovation, experimentation, and pioneering new possibilities. To cast that larger vision for a team or organization, which often means having the ability to look at the situation—whether it’s organizational restructuring or diminishing product sales—in a different light, even when there seems to be no light at all.
Visionary leaders help others see the vision. They are people uniters, bringing teams and entire organizations together and leading them in a common direction. This can play out in different scenarios with a visionary leadership style tapping into the flair of storytelling or symbolism to paint a powerful picture that energizes people toward a future goal.
Furthermore, they turn the vision into reality. Innovative ideas and grandiose visions are only meaningful if followed up by action. The flair and charisma often associated with the visionary leadership style must be balanced by discipline, focus, and a specific course of action.
A visionary leader ensures the vision becomes a reality by stating clear goals, outlining a strategic plan for achieving those goals and equipping & empowering each member to take action on the plan at the organizational, team, and individual levels.
For individuals, working under a visionary leader who encourages innovation and unites the organization toward one goal can be energizing. Studies indicate a visionary leadership style can lead to greater employee engagement, more productive teams, and improved outcomes.
A visionary leadership style can inspire a team to boldly strive for and achieve new heights and unite an organization to take one giant leap forward.
Lessons from a few World Visionaries
Nelson Mandela was a great South African leader who led his country to democracy and its people, of all races and creeds, to freedom. His vision that all South Africans could enjoy a shared future and his example of tolerance, forgiveness, and dignity inspired the world. He will be remembered as a great statesman, a visionary, and a man of peace. His commitment to quality education and a world where all children have the opportunity to pursue their dreams was demonstrated by the founding of the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development in 2007.
Oprah Winfrey is a producer, actress, and television icon. She was the first Black American woman to own her own production company. She was nominated for an Academy Award in her first movie, The Color Purple. She was once television’s highest-paid entertainer as the successful host of a syndicated television talk show that reached 15 million people daily.
Oprah is one of the most influential women in the world; moreover, she strives to see a change in the world and help others. She is a world icon and has inspired many women through her knowledge, experience, and will to help others. Despite her childhood, she became an industry trailblazer and one of the most notable women on television to date. She is an embodiment of a visionary leader.
Steven Jobs was an American inventor, designer, and entrepreneur who was the co-founder, chief executive, and chairman of Apple Computer. He was a risk-taker with an open mind. The Apple founder spent months traveling through India while a young man, and throughout his life, he tried to keep an open mind to different influences and ideas. He could spot trends and develop products that tapped into these markets by being open to new opportunities. For example, other MP3 players existed before the iPod, but Jobs spotted this trend and produced an easier-to-use, more attractive product, which became a must-have. Steve Jobs believed that many people don’t know exactly what they want before you show it to them. For example, before the iPod existed, people had no idea they would love to carry around a small rectangular box containing tens of thousands of songs. He was a visionary who believed his product solved a common problem despite what others thought.
Ethiopia is a deeply conservative nation. Being a visionary is extremely difficult in a traditional society where liberalization or a change in perspective on social issues is not openly accepted. Ethiopia shares characteristics with Asian nations in that it is a profoundly collectivist society, in contrast to western nations that tend to have individualistic societies. Dreaming or defying convention is frowned upon. Additionally, the country’s unfavorable policy environment makes it challenging for visionaries to transform their ideas into reality. Furthermore, it can be challenging to find the right visionaries to follow and support because visionaries in Ethiopia are not frequently recognized. Platforms like AWiB are influential in recognizing and identifying these visionaries so they can serve as an inspiration and get support.
Bethlehem Tilahun founded SoleRebels, a footwear company named the fastest-growing African brand company by Forbes. Her vision was to create jobs for the community by harnessing the community’s incredible artisan skills and channeling them into a sustainable, global, fair-trade footwear business. Bethlehem is working to change the conversation about African development from one focused on reducing poverty to one about prosperity creation driven by local Africans making the most of their skills and resources. She was the first female African entrepreneur to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, and in 2011 the African Business Awards named her Outstanding African Business Woman. She was one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa listed by Forbes magazine in 2011 and one of the continent’s most successful women in 2012.
She has always approached problems through a lens of opportunity – first with establishing a sustainable business to help her community and now, in her everyday leadership of a global brand. Everyone has an area they struggle with, but, as she illustrates, identifying these vulnerabilities and finding ways to turn them into an asset is what leadership is about. By not getting hung up on your weaknesses, we are showing our team that having a weakness is not bad – and that you can overcome these by working together. Ultimately, it’s about finding key people to delegate to and trusting the wisdom of our team.
Ermias Amelga is a prominent businessman who has been playing founding roles in various activities ranging from real estate to financial services. He is a visionary who aims to bring advanced innovations to Ethiopia. His vision was to use his knowledge/experience to launch groundbreaking businesses that could impact the economy. He established and led Access Real Estate until recently. He is also the person behind a one-branched bank concept that brought Zemen Bank into the financial bloc of the country. An economist and an outspoken personality, Ermias also reflect on various economic sector issues, the recent one being his review and recommendations of the Ethiopian economy, which he deemed to be at a crossroad. Even though he had failed many times through his expedition and many charges were laid against him, he stood still to his beliefs and significantly influenced many entrepreneurs.
Samrawit Fikru did not use a computer until she was 17, but that did not stop her from building Ride, an application that offers Ethiopians safe and affordable transport arrangements with well-equipped taxi drivers. Samrawit’s difficulty with hiring late-night cabs while working at a software developing company made her come up with the idea of creating an app that would provide safe and efficient transport services in Ethiopia. With few women in the Ethiopian tech industry, Samrawit’s Ride has a 90% female staff, serving as a role model for generations to come.
Samrawit’s curiosity made her obsessed with identifying and fixing societal gaps. She solved Ethiopia’s transport challenges by modernizing the country’s dated transport system. Samrawit believes we can grow as a continent, regardless of our challenges and barriers, to disrupt the tech scene on a global scale.
Visionary leaders see the future in their own unique and mysterious way. They see a horizon filled with opportunities, solutions, and game-changing concepts. They think outside the box and address the systemic root causes of problems to create real breakthroughs. They are social innovators and change agents. Their insight, imagination, and boldness set an agenda for a higher purpose that motivates people and brings them together around a shared sense of purpose. They do not believe that is only one answer to a question or a polarized issue. They solve problems seeing some truth on both sides of the case and offering a compromise in a win, win solution.
Ethiopia can develop and support visionary people or leaders by investing in education and providing opportunities for leadership development. Education is crucial in creating a population with the skills and knowledge necessary to lead the country forward. By investing in education, the government can ensure that future leaders are equipped with the tools to make informed decisions and guide the country toward prosperity.
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