The Two Faces of Visionary Leadership

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The ElderHub

Out beyond right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. – Rumi

I’ve worked for and on behalf of many visionary leaders for years. This week, I was honored to attend a San Francisco fundraising event were I saw visionary leadership at its best – a strong and humble woman who works behind the scenes to empower a group of women and to share their stories and shift the paradigm themselves. The vision, no doubt, was driven by her hard work and passion as an influential leader however, the message was not of her, but of the women and communities she serves and of the people who have helped her along the way. The outcome was that her vision was deepening and creating visions for others. She didn’t own the vision, she was the catalyst, and she was allowing others to take it forward. Her team of staff, board, volunteers, clients and the community embraced her vision as their own. She proudly asked them to share in the success. The program she started over 25 years ago is growing and thriving.

Unfortunately, the other side of visionary leadership is not as compelling or sustainable. It is driven by ego and the need of the leaders to be seen as crusaders, ones who believes that the end always justifies the means. This crusader attitude creates dependencies on ego driven leaders, rigid ideology and a fear to collaborate with others. The “we will do it alone” attitude is toxic. The crusader leaders, with their egos unchecked, see their way as the right and only pure way and describe the community outside their domain as the hostile enemy wanting to take something away from the group.  Leading from this pulpit usually creates a small and loyal following and a trail of dissenters and disillusioned ex-followers. The good work of the vision is lost in the message of fear and dependency. Programs are usually in a state of chaos and rarely thrive under this leadership.

Our challenge is to support the work of true visionary leaders and call out the shallow messages of the charismatic crusaders whose vision has turned to ego.

I encourage you to find a cause that you are passionate about and an organization that is doing good work. See how you can help. Our communities depend on volunteerism and the talents and wisdom of all of us.




October 2, 2014 at 5:22 am #1015
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