Walk the walk — would you consider yourself a visionary?

In the dictionary, a visionary is defined as a person with unusual foresight and the ability to see ahead. Whenever we are in a position of leadership, we carry that responsibility, whether we like it or not.

SBN magazine is all about visionaries. In 1999, we had our first Innovation in Business Conference, which recognized area leaders for their innovation and vision in business. Winners in the visionary category were leaders who recognized trends such as how the Internet would change how books are sold; how software could be broken down and sold as components; how competition in the cable industry would create a need for marking cables; how interactive media could enhance retail sales; and using franchising in a nontraditional industry to grow.

These are all people with the uncanny knack of knowing in which direction their industry is headed before everyone else. Needless to say, the conference was a smashing success. People want to learn what it takes to acquire these skills and apply them to their own businesses.

Here are several questions to consider:

  • Would you consider yourself a visionary? 
  • How important is it to be a visionary if I am in a leadership position? 
  • How can I tell if I am one? 
  • How can I become one if I’m not?
  • What will happen if I never become one?

Here are the four steps it takes to become one. This exercise can be helpful regardless of how you answered the questions above.

1. Think like one. Don’t operate in a vacuum. Get educated on your industry and understand what is happening around you. With the right information and research, you can pick up on trends before anyone else. It is important to know what your competition is doing and how it is doing it. Think long term and get away from the daily crisis mode that too many of you operate in. Establish goals and work toward them.

2. Talk like one. Delegate responsibility to free up more of your time for long-term strategic planning. Spread the message throughout the organization so everyone knows what the goals are. Continue to reinforce the message.

3. Act like one. Implementation of your plan to reach your goals is up to you. You’ve done the research, identified the trends that will affect your company and established goals to make your company the leader.

4. Be like one. Results will speak for themselves. If you are successful in being a visionary, revenues, earnings and market share will increase. Your hard work and visionary skills will have paid off.

To be a true visionary, you have to keep moving forward. Like a high-profile coach, you are only as good as your last game. Once you’ve reached one set of goals, you need to formulate your plan for the next ones.

Failing to be a visionary can hurt your business. If you don’t have a vision, it will be hard to retain your top people. With no clear goals, they’ll see the company as stagnant and move on to more promising positions.

Without a vision, it’s hard to convince bankers and investors to give you enough capital to grow your business. As you remain stationary, your competition will pass you by with visions of their own.

Become a visionary now, before your competitors do.

Fred Koury ([email protected]) is president and CEO of SBN.