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Envisioning a Bolder Future: Defining, Collaborating, and Ambitiously Inspiring

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Practice #5: Inspiring a Bold Vision

Learn more about the 7 Impactful Practices.

By Janet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board at Deloitte US

In a world of unpredictable geopolitical events, unprecedented market volatility, and ever-evolving technologies, today’s leaders are charged with ensuring that chaos in the operating environment doesn’t create chaos in their organizations. In this environment, organizations look to leaders to set a bold vision for the future—and help teams chart a clear, steady path through complexity and change.

That task can be daunting—especially if we see it as a one-person responsibility. At the start of my career, I often assumed the leaders I admired woke up with brilliant ideas, that they arrived at meetings with all the answers. And sure, there have been moments throughout my career where I have experienced striking “lightbulb ideas”—moments of creativity and strategy that have propelled our organization forward.

But my experience has shown that “the perfect vision” is rarely a top-down declaration or a one-person directive. Instead, bold vision can be a collaborative effort—the result of listening to those around you, noticing opportunities for change, and bringing others on board.

In other words, vision doesn’t always come from stewing alone in your office with the door closed, waiting for inspiration to strike. It comes from your own ideas, complemented by recognizing and inspiring vision in the people you work with—and building on great ideas.

Recognizing and Inspiring Vision

Take the birth of Deloitte Digital ten years ago. When I took over running Deloitte’s technology business, I was thrown into a different world. While I arrived with substantial experience in the back office of Wall Street, members of my team had spent years thinking about customer experience and how technology could enable it. They spoke about technology and digital devices in a way that was fundamentally different than how I viewed tech in an enterprise business context. 

If I would have walked in and tried to impose my perspective on my team, it would have been a disaster. Instead, I committed myself to listening and learning. I asked questions, kept an eye out for those kernels of vision, and proposed suggestions to build on exciting ideas. Eventually, we shaped the future of the organization together, starting with an acquisition that started what is now Deloitte Digital.

I am proud to say that this was not just my vision; it was our team’s shared vision. I didn’t have to be the person with all the brilliant ideas. Instead, I could be the leader who connected the dots—creating the energy and direction necessary to bring those brilliant ideas to fruition.

And a sense of humor goes along way: Our newly acquired team at the time dressing like Deloitte consultants for Halloween see ‘me’ reaching for the phone.

Moving from Vision to Action 

Of course, if shaping a vision is a collaborative effort, putting it into practice is even more so. Team members across the organization need to align—and take actionable steps to move ideas into reality.

Leaders can begin by: 

  • Formulating a narrative. Ask yourself: How will this vision help my organization move forward or tackle challenges?
  • Managing doubters with empathy and expertise. Harness communication skills to not only share a vision, but thoughtfully address questions and concerns from others. 
  • Communicating vision with confidence. Bold vision requires bold leadership. Believe in your vision and draw upon your expertise—and the knowledge of others—to confidently sell it. 

That is how a vision can build from many kernels of ideas in many different people, to a shared ideal for the future we picture together, to the reality we see all around us.

To be sure, the years to come will be just as surprising and challenging as the recent past. But bold vision can help teams find clarity amidst complexity, remember their purpose during moments of doubt, and achieve extraordinary things together.

This article, originally published on LinkedIn on March 22, is part of a LinkedIn series in conjunction with Simmons University’s Susan MacKenty Brady and Dr. Lynn Perry Wooten highlighting essential practices for thriving in leadership. It is based on our upcoming book Arrive and Thrive, 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership. Pre-order your book today. Stay tuned!