Your Vision Has Consequences
A leader's bold vision can inspire teams, but it must account for operational realities or risk unintended consequences.
WRITTEN BY: ADAM DANYAL
Having an inspiring vision for your team and company is the mark of a great leader. But be careful—your vision can also have unintended consequences if you’re not mindful.
Let me tell you a story that illustrates this. Years ago when I worked at a startup, our CEO rallied us behind a bold vision to disrupt the industry within 3 years. We were inspired! He described how we’d reach #1 status through rapid growth, new partnerships, and novel products.
In our enthusiasm, we overlooked one key fact: Our startup wasn’t ready for that pace of scale. We lacked the processes and infrastructure to handle such explosive growth. But we charged ahead anyway, not wanting to let our leader down.
At first, things went well as we added new clients at a record pace. Morale was high and our CEO praise us for our “hustle”. But soon, we started dropping balls. With our staff and systems overloaded, projects fell behind schedule, service issues went unresolved, and clients became frustrated.
Our leader’s inspiring vision, which we wholeheartedly embraced, had pushed us into overdrive too soon. We simply couldn’t deliver on his grand plans, at least not yet. Unintended consequences resulted from the vision’s unrealistic timeline.
What’s the lesson here? Bold visions energize teams, but leaders must ensure they’re grounded in reality. Your team can only grow as fast as its foundation allows. Make sure your vision accounts for your people’s capacities, your operational capabilities, resource constraints, and market readiness.
Visions shouldn’t just inspire—they should be feasible. Test your vision by asking “what could go wrong?” Address the risks, and pace your vision to what’s achievable. Communicate the vision clearly so your team understands the tradeoffs.
An inspiring vision isn’t helpful if it sets your team up to fail. Great leaders ground their visions in reality. They ensure their teams can deliver, even if that means scaling back the vision’s timeline. A vision shouldn’t just excite—it should enlighten. Make sure your vision leads your team to success, not unintended consequences.
From our Leadership Bookshelf:
WRITTEN BY: JULIA DANYAL
Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected entrepreneurs, shares hard-won lessons on leadership and managing crises based on his own experience leading companies through challenging times. Here are some key takeaways from his book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things":
Be transparent and authentic, even when delivering difficult news. Don't sugarcoat harsh realities, but communicate with compassion and empathy.
Accept blame when appropriate. As a leader, own major problems even when not directly at fault. This builds trust and credibility.
Enforce tough love. Set high standards for performance and hold team members accountable. Remove low performers swiftly. This maintains morale and productivity.
Watch for red flags. Nip emerging problems in the bud through active monitoring and corrective action before they escalate into crises.
Learn from failures. Reflect on mistakes to glean insights for improvement. Share lessons learned to help the team avoid repeating errors.
Horowitz provides blunt, insightful advice for leaders navigating crises big and small. By applying his principles with care and humanity, we can lead effectively through turmoil and emerge stronger.