Defining Your Personal Leadership Vision

Harvard Business School professor Stew Friedman writes, “A leader’s personal leadership vision is an essential means for focusing attention on what matters most—what you want to accomplish in your life and what kind of leader you wish to be. A useful vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you and the people whose commitment you need to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.”

Friedman goes on to explain that the personal leadership vision has four core features:

Compelling: A compelling story about the future is engaging. It will capture the heart of those who hear it. It forces people to listen and pay attention to what the leader is saying. The people who hear it will be moved and want to somehow be a part of it. 

Image: A leader should be able to have a clear vision of what the future will look like. This is their image of the future. It answers the question, “What would others find if they were able to travel into the future with the leader?” A well-crafted leadership vision must be able to be described in easy to visualize and remember concrete terms. 

The leader’s story of the future should be a stretch from the present, but it must also be believably achievable. If it is not achievable, neither the leader nor his or her potential followers will have any real passion or motivations to even bother trying. 

Future: Think of future as a time that is forward from the present moment, but not so far into the future that it is out of reach. 

Friedman suggests that a personal leadership vision serves as an anchor for uncertain times like those we are now experiencing. He adds that without out a clear leadership vision, a leader is at risk of being too easily tossed back and forth by every wind of change. This kind of constant distraction and change in direction makes it nearly impossible to make progress or for others to confidently follow.

Business writer George Ambler urges leaders to ask: “Is your personal leadership vision clear? What does the future look like? Is it achievable and future-focused?”

(Do You Have a Personal Leadership Vision? By George Ambler, The Practice of Leadership 8/30/09)  

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Gary D. Foster founded and leads Gary D. Foster Consulting, a marketing and management service specializing in helping religious product companies and ministries discover and optimize new revenue streams and to better leverage existing ones. He served as an executive with Focus on the Family, where he managed their award-winning book publishing operation and $110 million direct-mail fundraising division. He also spent 12 years with the Christian Booksellers Association, where he served as President and CEO of CBA Service Corporation. He also served in executive product development and marketing positions with Cook Communications Ministries, Moody Press and Moody Magazine. Learn more about Gary at