Visions of Young Women

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the good fortune of speaking at the Broad Advantage conference in New York. Part of Janet Hanson’s amazing organization, 85 Broads, this weeklong program offers an array of speakers and experiences for about 100 college women who are interested in business careers.

A few days ago I asked each member of this year’s group to sketch and then describe to the rest of us her personal leadership vision–a compelling image of an achievable future. Leadership vision is an essential means for focusing attention on what matters most; what you want to accomplish in your life and what kind of leader you wish to be. A useful vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.

Let’s look a bit more closely at the four key components:

  •  A compelling story of the future is engaging; it captures the heart, forces you to pay attention. Those who hear it want to be a part of it somehow. And they are moved.
  • What does your future look like – what’s the image? If others could travel into the future with you, what would they find? A well-crafted leadership vision is described in concrete terms that are easy to visualize and remember.
  • The story of your future should be a stretch, but it must be achievable, too. If it were not achievable, you would have little motivation to even bother trying.
  • Finally, future simply means out there – some time from this moment forward, but not so far away that’s it’s out of reach.

What contributions to our world do these young women dream of making? The whole group heard from a few members and then we broke up into smaller groups so everyone could share theirs. The leadership visions of these young women were inspiring. Most are driven to succeed not only in their careers but also in cultivating loving families and in making meaningful contributions to society. A few examples: healing political rifts among nations now set on destroying each other, finding creative and practical ways to feed the hungry, and strengthening our increasingly fragile environment.

Riding the rails back to Philadelphia, I felt optimistic that the next generation of business leaders is bound to exert greater energy and attention than mine to making the world better than the one they’ve inherited.

What’s your personal leadership vision? How does it compare with the life and career aspirations of these future business women?

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