Visionaries don’t think outside the box; they’re already outside the box.
Visionaries are out in front of the wagon trains moving west, looking for new territory, better ways of crossing mountains and easier paths to cross the river. Often, they do this alone. Usually, they do this alone. No, they always do this alone.
In government, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t sure what lay to the west, but his vision sent Lewis and Clark.
In religion, they are Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King.
In art they are Michelangelo, DaVinci, Van Gogh.
In entertainment, they are P.T. Barnum.
In business, they are people like Floyd and Kathy Hammer (started the first plastics recycling plant in America), Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and a host of others who see what others don’t, but are able – often by sheer will of personal prowess – to bring the future to the now.
In agricultural science they are Dr. Norman Borlaug, a farmer/scientist from Iowa who used scientific engineering and started the Green Revolution.
I’m intrigued by visionaries so I read their writings, wondering what makes them tick what makes them think like no other, what gives them the foresight to see what others can’t. Along the way, I’ve had the good fortune of personally knowing two of the aforementioned visionaries, Floyd and Kathy Hammer.
First, they led the way in America for plastics recycling, a truly “green” initiative that has saved untold harm to the environment and provided enrichment of our daily life. Then, while most people retire to spend their golden years on a golf course, Floyd and Kathy saw a future of engaging volunteers to attack world hunger with meal packaging events. While other fledgling organizations focused on meal packaging events for international hunger, the Hammers saw the need in America and came up with five domestic meals that stay in local food banks.
420,000,000 meals. That’s four-hundred-twenty-million meals that the Hammers have facilitated the packaging of since 2004 and their founding of The Outreach Program.
In addition, they provide more than 1,200 kids in Tanzania the food and school uniforms necessary to go to school. They’ve taken hundreds of medical professionals to Africa to perform surgeries and other medical care. This is just a few of the things they’ve done.
Here’s what I’ve learned about true visionaries:
- They refuse to settle for status quo
- They don’t consider what they do a job or work; it’s a relentless passion
- They constantly look ahead
- They take risks that others simply won’t even consider
- They are able to make the plan that accompanies the vision
- They inspire others to see the vision
- They don’t let naysayers or critics stand in the way
- They consider every problem an opportunity, not an obstacle
There is a difference between a dreamer and a visionary. A dreamer often doesn’t know how to make their dreams become real. Visionaries know what it takes to make their vision a reality.
Do you know a visionary? What have you learned from them?
Are you a visionary? If you are, there are people like me who are looking for you to make the world a better place in which to live. We’re ready to follow. Just lead.
Here are the previous seven lessons on leadership: