Leading by vision

In interviews one is often asked “how do you lead people?”. Leading your own team is relatively easy. What do you do if you “have to make people listen to you who don’t have to?” (as one NOKIA HR Manager has always put it). I strongly believe that this is the moment to become serious about the content. You cannot solely lead by KPIs or by driving process milestones. Now imagine a situation where you have to lead really strong people like founders or senior engineers. What makes people listen to your ideas?

During the first ten years of my career I believed it was all about money and job titles. You could buy the loyalty of your employees without having to satisfy their demand for great stuff to work on. You could get any UX person if you just offer a nice title and a decent salary. This was the type of arrogance of people wearing suits and owning the P&L. I was so wrong. I found myself in situations where I had to sell the role to an interesting candidate – and had nothing to say.

When talking about “leading by vision” I don´t mean the fluffy high flying vague kind of thing. I mean the concrete and tangible artifact. At my previous company we identified so called “north stars” aka products that would guide us the way. We built a vision type to illustrate the concept as concretely as possible. It is hard and sometimes almost impossible. But you have to try. If you get this right, no, let´s say exciting for your (potential) followers then they will listen. The rest is empowerment and  excellent management. Don´t let go. Also monitor progress and ruthlessly push for the execution of the vision.


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