Whether you’re getting funding for your brand spankin’ new startup, convincing a customer to buy loads of stuff from your company or leading a team of people in an effort to turn dreams into reality, your ability to sell your vision to a wide variety of people is a required skill and a critical part of being a good leader.
The key mistake made by people when selling their vision is getting too detailed. It’s a hole that managers fall into often when trying to be a visionary leader. As I’ve said before, while there is some overlap, pure management and leadership skills are quite different (for more on this, see my post: Revisiting Leadership vs. Management). Strong managers often want to show the path and specifically outline the goals instead of painting a broad and undefined picture, like great leaders.
Their are two reasons that a painted picture is more effective than a detailed roadmap when you want to create followers:
- The more detail provided to the audience, the more they’ll be naturally driven to poke holes and find problems with it. When shown the way, people think mostly of implementation issues and actions and lose focus on the meta-idea.
- A sweeping picture of what could be, on the other hand, can capture the imagination of the audience. Listeners captured by the picture begin to share your vision and ultimately adopt it as their own. This creates followers.
Of course, the abstract needs to be compelling, exciting and contain a reasonable amount of practical content. If your story is about jet packs and flying cars, people aren’t going to follow you too far. If they can be sold on the desire to follow you (because you’re cool and a great story-teller), how unique and great the idea is and the belief that the goal can be achieved (even if they don’t know how it will be achieved), then you’ve painted a great picture that people will fall in line behind.
Great leaders create a vision of what could be in their audience’s minds, not what is or how to get there. Part of that vision there has to be a practical, for sure, but just enough to make people feel like the vision is achievable. Eventually, you have to get down to implementation details. Stuff has to get done, right? But there’s no point in getting trapped in those details until your audience is as much a participant in the dream as you are.