Everyone talks about the importance of having a vision from a leadership perspective, from politicians to business leaders to spiritual gurus, but what they do not know about vision is –
1) Why a vision works?
2) How to make it work?
Let’s begin with the first point. Among the five human senses, eyes are the most trusted ones. We believe what we ‘see’ more than what we ‘hear’. We hardly find food tasty when we haven’t seen the food we are about to eat or when we close our eyes while eating. As a result, eating food without seeing becomes less enjoyable (those who don’t believe this just give it a try).
When a leader creates a mental picture of the future of their country or their company, they first start seeing it in a virtual reality, which is their imagination. This is a very powerful feature of a vision, even if it’s not real we can convince ourselves and others to believe and trust our vision, which results in motivation to take action towards better future. It doesn’t matter if it’s a reality or just an imagination. It just works! This explanation about why exactly a vision works is not logical (objective) but psychological (emotional and subjective) and when it comes to influencing and persuading people in the direction of a leader’s vision, the psychological aspect is more powerful than logical reasoning.
Keeping this information in the back of our heads, let us turn our attention to the second point – how to make a vision work?
To start with, a leader must know that, a vision needs to be, clear, compelling, vibrant and most importantly persuasive. The way to exhibit these four characteristic features of a vision is by constructing a story. A story must clearly depict the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ aspects of the future.
In addition, stories appeal to the narcissist in all of us. When a leader is constantly talking, imposing and acting towards his vision, their followers start imagining (seeing a virtual reality) how it makes their life better, what benefits will they have for themselves, how to position ourselves for taking advantage of future opportunities that are being presented (because people believe what they ‘see’ even if it’s just an imagination which is yet to come true).
This also reaffirms that the leader knows what they want, which in turn results in a feeling of trust, safety, and confidence, and hence converting people into followers. As Steven D. Levitt said in one of his books that stories are valuable because:
“A story, meanwhile, fills out the picture. It uses data, statistical or otherwise, to portray a sense of magnitude; without data, we have no idea how a story fits into the larger scheme of things. A good story also includes the passage of time, to show the degree of constancy or change; without a time frame, we can’t judge whether we’re looking at something truly noteworthy or just an anomalous blip. And a story lays out a daisy chain of events, to show the causes that lead up to a particular situation and the consequences that result from it.”
For instance, my vision or a persuasive narrative for unlocking India’s true potential is, first we need to resolve conflicting ideas about India. We need to neutralise communal violence in Indian society, transform the socio-economic system to an institutionalised economy and inclusive governance which together creates natural incentives for education, innovation, and development. And last but not the least, shift the basis of political competition from caste-based voting, to voting based on economic development and level of corruption from politicians for effectively curbing corruption.
In short, a story or a narrative is the most powerful form of persuasion and we cannot call ourselves leaders if we are unable to persuade others and mobilise people’s support for transforming a vision into reality. Most leaders act in accordance with these details at an unconscious level, but being aware of why a vision works and how to make it work ‘consciously’, puts a leader in a more controlled position.
Mohammed Raziq is a founder, strategist, and a public policy advocate at F70 Think-Tank whose objective is to innovate Indian political domain to achieve the aforementioned vision. If you are interested to learn more about leadership, formulating strategies and how he’s solving India’s toughest challenges follow him on twitter @raziqinc2 and on LinkedIn