Synthesizing Vision: Choice of Direction

All of the visionary leaders to whom we spoke seemed to have been masters at selecting, synthesizing, and articulating an appropriate vision of the future. Later, we learned that this was a common quality of such people down through the ages. Consider, for example, how a contemporary biographer of Napoleon, Louis Madelin, described him:

He would deal with three or four alternatives at the same time and endeavor to conjure up every possible eventuality – preferably the worst. This foresight, the fruit of meditation, generally enabled him to be ready for any setback, nothing ever took him by surprise … His vision, as I have said, was capable of both breadth and depth. Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of his intellect was the combination of idealism and realism which enabled him to face the most exalted visions at the same time as the most insignificant realities. And, indeed, he was in a sense a visionary, a dreamer of dreams.

The task of synthesizing an appropriate direction for the organization is complicated by the many dimensions of vision that may be required. Visionary leaders require foresight, so that they can judge how the vision fits into the way the environment of the organization may evolve; hindsight, so that the vision does not violate the traditions and culture of the organization; a world view, within which to interpret the impact of possible new developments and trends; depth perception, so that the whole picture ...

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