Visionary Leader

15/6/2015 Visionary Leader (Leadership Excellence Series)

A last minute speech cancellation lead to a sprint over a lunch hour to present this leadership educational speech at Northampton Speakers on the 15th June 2015. I felt, with the club heading towards charter-ship, it would stimulate a lively discussion on how the club sees itself -and it did.

What is a good leadership vision?

Here are four famous or recognizable vision statements -what makes them work well?

  1. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Martin Luther King
  2. “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. “Winston Churchill
  3. “A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the State as servant and not as master: these are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free economy. And on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.” Margaret Thatcher
  4. “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” ― Steve Jobs

Vision statements are very much like flags they are laden with powerful symbology yet conceptually simple enough that a child could draw them from memory. They are highly communicable. Good visions challenge and inspire.  They add focus, definition and value to tasks and structure to relationships.

I brought these two flags in from my children’s collection.

Catalan Donkey Flag
Catalan Donkey Flag
Inverse Sardinian Flag
Inverse Sardinian Flag

Crafting Vision Statements

It is best to involve the whole team in a brainstorming activity around a series of questions:

Visionary Leader Speech Flip ChartsVisionary Leader Speech Flip Charts

What is Northampton Speakers Good at?

Visionary Leader Speech Flip Charts
Visionary Leader Speech Flip Charts

What does Northampton Speakers do that is of great Value?

Visionary Leader Speech Flip Charts
Visionary Leader Speech Flip Charts

What make Northampton Speaker Unique?

Visionary Leader Speech Flip ChartsVisionary Leader Speech Flip Charts

Other questions that could be put:

  • What excites the Team about Northampton Speakers?
  • What does the Team expect from Northampton Speakers?

Putting visions to work

Once you have processed the brainstorming into a clear vision statement then:

  • Use it as a consistent signature theme through key presentations
  • Use it on memes and notepads etc
  • Show how it relates to people’s daily roles and how it benefits them.  A good vision statement adds meaning and worth and thus self worth and motivation. Visions need the team’s willingness to achieve that vision, yet allow control of their futures as well as  fostering collaborations, cooperation and teamwork.
  • Enthuse it! Enthusiasm is infectious
  • Have people discuss it and buy into it with their peers. From weight watchers to Presidential inaugurations to weddings the verbal vows taken before peers stick very well (unlike the weight loss promises made within the privacy of ones own mind)

Don’t get hung up trying to perfect the one brilliant vision statement. They are evolutionary as much as revolutionary statements.  They help hold a clear course in turbulent seas but they must also bend with reality. The worlds biggest military fleet under the command of the highest admiral still gives way to a lighthouse and its keeper!


“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” T. E. Lawrence

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. ~ Japanese proverb


It was sure interesting doing this not least because I am preparing my careers talk. I’d love to revisit it with a shade more time to prepare and practice.


  1. Audience participation -gentle friendly questioning
  2. Great quotes
  3. Flags were a great prop
  4. Japanese proverb was a good close with added humour
  5. Well put together at 11th hour
  6. Great information
  7. Good vocal variety
  8. Smiley face on flip chart set up a positive tone


  1. The flags could have been better placed as it was a fumble getting them out
  2. Need more umpf and volume
  3. A slight overkill on quotes
  4. Needs to be brought together at the end better
  5. Needed some notes
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