Vision for the future Featured

1:18pm EDT August 31, 2005
What’s the most important trait a business leader needs to succeed?

A can-do attitude? An iron stomach? Unflappable confidence? Charisma? Business savvy? The ability to motivate others?

This is a question I’ve posed recently to several dozen CEOs. And the more people I speak with, the clearer the answer becomes.

While several traits are needed to succeed in business, only one has consistently been at the top of every CEO’s list — a great leader must have vision.

But great ideas aren’t enough. That’s only one part of vision. In fact, the streets of business and industry are littered with great ideas that haven’t been realized. Ideas are valuable only if there’s a champion capable of creating true believers to see past the obstacles or yet-be-be-created markets and envision a tangible reality where there currently isn’t one.

That is the full-package visionary leadership. In order to truly have vision, great leaders must be able to clearly and concisely articulate the ideas to a senior management team and employees so that they, in turn, can cooperatively help turn the leader’s vision into reality.

Not surprisingly then, the theme of this year’s Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference, presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is “Vision.”

Later this month, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion with four regional business leaders — Developers Diversified Realty’s Scott Wolstein, The Cleveland Foodbank’s Anne Goodman, Case Western Reserve University’s Edward Hundert and Glencairn Development’s Jim Biggar (former CEO of Stouffer’s/Nestle USA).

All four are great leaders who have built careers on their ability to see the future and develop a plan capable of getting an organization there.

More important, all four have demonstrated that they possess the full package — they know how to achieve buy-in from their senior management teams and employees so that, as one cohesive unit, they’ve been able to execute their vision despite numerous obstacles that stood squarely in each of their ways.

You can read more about these four Master Innovators, as well as the rest of this year’s Innovation in Business honorees, in this month’s special supplement. And then, on Sept. 22, at the Innovation in Business awards banquet at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, you can hear them speak about how vision played a key role in each of their successes.

I hope to see you there.