Transformational Leaders Know When Vision Isn’t Enough

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

Many capable leaders have experienced the inherent difficulties of implementing change within an organization. Highly gifted visionaries, soon learn that casting vision isn’t enough to bring about change.

There’s many reasons for resisting something new. The reluctance to change isn’t about stubbornness or the likability of the leader; it has to do with the existing culture within the company. Understanding this is important for the leader who’s new to the organization. The leader has two options; first, the new vision must be aligned with the current culture if it’s going to be accepted – this is usually not an option. Second, the leader must change the existing culture to one that supports the vision.

“Vision doesn’t change an organization when it clashes with its culture.” -JSP

Culture is a collective paradigm, reflecting the basic philosophy and habit patterns of an organization. It governs what people believe, and how they behave.  Culture functions as unspoken guidelines governing the entire organization. It’s the culture that dictates whether the rank and file buy into a new leader and their vision.

The Buy-In

The Law of Buy-In states that “People buy into the leader, then the vision.” The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream, (2)

there are no short cuts. If the leader fails to connect with the people, the vision will never become a reality. Studies show that people do not resist change within their organization as much as they resist having to change themselves. That’s the power of culture.

Do You Remember “Ford has a better idea?”


“Help People Believe in Themselves and They’ll Believe in You.” -JSP

Alan Mullaly is commonly known as the man who saved the Ford motor company. He walked into the failing company with a bold new vision, and a well thought out action plan. The idea was to resurrect the original vision of the company.  He rallied the troops by connecting with the people as a team. Speaking to their sense of belonging, and a meaningful purpose for their efforts. They were infused with a collective consciousness of being a part of something much bigger than themselves.

Ford has a better idea

The company was successfully reconnected to the original vision of founder Henry Ford. He envisioned a reliable, affordable vehicle parked in front of every home. Alan Mullaly and his team succeeded in transforming the company’s culture to match that vision, and the rising expectations became contagious. The rest as they say is history.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

Demonstrate What You Intend to Create


“If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example. I have to do so for all the IKEA employees.” – Ingvar Kamprad

As a transformational leader, you’ll want to develop a culture of lifelong learning. Get behind your people and create an atmosphere of expectation, encouraging the ongoing growth of your emerging leaders. By increasing people’s ability to believe in themselves and each other, you’ll be creating a culture of honor. Live what you envision, let them see the vision through you – set the standard.

To lead people, walk behind them.” – Lao Tzu

  • Recognize emerging leaders                                                                                           Developing a culture of lifelong learning requires drawing attention to those who     are doing it – Boost their confidence.
  • Allow them to lead                                                                                                                      Let them implement their own good ideas – Share the spotlight and let them shine. The rewards far outweigh the risks.
  • Allow them to learn                                                                                                                   A culture of lifelong learning has a learning curve – give them space to grow
  • Make yourself available                                                                                                           You need to be available, and easily approachable. The hands-on approach is the only way you and your leaders can know each other – Let it be seen that you work with your teams.

End Notes

(1) Featured Image from Westinghouse – A Cultural Shift – Chapter 32

(2) The Law of Buy-In (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell)

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