The 3 Lenses of Visionary Leaders

Good leaders create a vision, passionately articulate the vision, and relentlessly drive the vision to completion.”

Before we look at organizational vision, consider the literal example of vision and the human eye. Very few people have perfect 20/20 vision. According to the National Eye Institute (of America):

  • More than 12 million Americans can only see things clearly at a distance (farsighted);
  • More than 32 million can only see clearly those things or people who are close by (nearsighted);
  • While a full third have blurry vision due to a less than perfectly round eye surface (astigmatism).
  • More than 150 million Americans use corrective eyewear to improve their sight.


There are corrective lenses for each of these conditions, enabling people to improve their sight. This principle has application to visionary leaders as well.

Here are three lenses you need to apply to your organization in order to create, articulate, and drive your vision forward. Think of these metaphoric lenses as perspectives or filters if it helps.

Diagnostic Lens. Before a vision can be created, you need to clearly understand what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s also critical to recognize the current position of your organization and use that as a starting point. Additionally, you also need to identify existing obstacles, procedures, and personalities that may undermine your vision at various stages. These may be difficult for you to see, especially if you’ve been with the organization a while.Why? You may have developed an institutional “blind spot.” (Eventually, this happens to every leader.) If so, this may require you to solicit input from a “fresh pair” of eyes—an unbiased insider or an external consultant.Once you have completed your diagnostics and you have a clear view of the organization and its needs, you need to incorporate your findings into the overall vision.

Innovation Lens. Innovation is often “hiding in plain site.” It requires you to cultivate a specific perspective in order to enable it to jump into view.For example, consider the challenges of trying to innovate the following commoditized products: paint, glass, and duct tape – pretty dull and boring at first glance with little opportunity. For decades, industry leaders did not see anyway to innovate on those products and increase their revenue. Yet:

  • Sherwin-Williams developed a square, stackable, pourable paint container that revolutionized the industry.
  • Corning innovated away from cookware, to fiber optic cables, flat-screen TVs, and biotech lab tools.
  • Duck Brand duct tape breathed new life and profitability into the category with fashion-focused line extensions in a rainbow of patterns and colors.


In each case, the opportunity for innovation was always there. But it took visionary leaders to create an environment where others within the organization could see the opportunity that was right in front of their eyes, articulate it, and bring it forward.

Unseen Lens Ultimately, as a visionary, you are going to have to lead your organization down a path it’s never been before. This requires the use of the “unseen” lens which will set the course for the desired future state.

  • Christopher Columbus had to apply this lens when he set off to find the new world, at a time when everyone thought the world was flat.
  • President Kennedy had to apply this lens when he pledged to put an American on the moon in the 1960s.
  • Steve Jobs did it time and again when he challenged Apple to launch the iPod, MacBook , iTunes, and iPhone.


As a visionary leader, you need to be your organization’s eyes into the future, driving it’s performance down a pioneering path.

In order to be a positive, transformational leader you need a clear vision if your organization is going to survive and thrive. But you and the vision are indistinguishable. Without a clear vision, you won’t last. And without a visionary leader, neither will the vision.

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Tor Constantino

Tor Constantino

Tor Constantino is a communications professional with more than 23+ years combined experience as a print/broadcast journalist and Fortune 500 corporate public relations professional. He has worked for companies including: CBS Radio, Clear Channel Communications, Global Crossing, and Bausch & Lomb. He currently works as a corporate public relations executive within the life sciences industry and is based in the greater Washington, DC area where he lives with his wife and three children. He holds an MBA degree from Rochester Institute of Technology as well as a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In his spare time, he is a college-level business communications instructor; a bestselling nonfiction author; writes daily at his blog The Daily ReTORt; is a frequent guest speaker and group facilitator; and an avid runner who has completed several marathons.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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