The first basic ingredient of leadership is a guiding
vision. The leader has a clear idea of what he wants to do – professionally and
personally – and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures.
Unless you know where you are going, and why, you cannot possibly get there.
Warren Bennis (1994)
Visionary leadership has become something of a holy grail. It
seems to be a rare commodity which is greatly sought after. Our recent research
(see box) indicates that today’s business leaders place considerable value on
visionary leadership as a tool for organizational change. But is visionary
leadership really the answer?
In our change leadership sessions with private sector senior
and middle managers in the UK we ask people to name significant leaders of
change. The top four names mentioned over the period 1997–2002 were:
The top five characteristics that emerged through a typical
discussion of these significant leaders were:
Cameron Change Consultancy data 2002
Here we explore the views of the supporters of visionary
leadership, and those who make the case against it.