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Leadership Matters: Making Vision A Reality

Follow this process to inspire your team to turn strategic vision into innovation and action.

I’m going to give you a system that allows you to achieve your greatest visions.

I’ve uncovered this process by using it: In 2015, I founded an innovative addiction treatment center for the poor and homeless, which is now winning national awards. And in 2016, I co-founded Frist Cressey Ventures, which has become highly successful in just five years. The credit goes to this process, not to me.

Greatness begins with a vision—a vision that excites you, that you would be proud to achieve with your team. A vision should contain virtue in helping members and improving their lives.

This vision travels to realization through a virtuous cycle. It starts with a mission, which I see as a tangible description of a vision’s goals, a statement of specific accomplishments to be achieved. Vision adds spirit and wonder to the specific goals in the mission. A vision develops great energy from people’s thrill at the potential to improve members’ lives—envisioning the positive outcomes and possibilities creates energy and excitement among your team members.

Here’s an example: After a meeting in 2013 where our team concluded there were no palliative care companies we could invest in, our partner, Senator William Frist, stood and said, “Well, if there aren’t any palliative care companies, I’ll create one.” And he did! Inspired by patients’ needs, Bill founded Aspire Health, offering top-quality geriatricians to care for the elderly population. He founded the company, developed funding and successfully built it nationwide. Only six years later, it was the leading company in palliative care. Bill had an inspired and clear vision of helping pre-hospice patients and their families and turned that vision into thousands of caring clinicians helping patients improve their lives.

Inspiring Energy and Growth
Visioning an outcome will inspire your team. And this enthusiasm does something further—it inspires great people outside your organization to want to join. Great people want to be part of doing something remarkable. They sense a positive adventure, and they want to participate. With talented new people joining your organization, great external energy can be added to the mission.

The energy produced by your vision can be focused to drive innovation. I consider innovation a must-have for people in my organizations. Individual innovations accumulate to lift your team toward achieving your vision. Just as it’s useless to plant a fruit tree and not water it, it’s useless to plant a great vision and not innovate. It will wither. Innovation is the water that grows the vision. The spirit of innovation should be a requirement of every teammate in every enterprise!

People get inspired when they’re challenged to innovate. Their inspiration creates positive energy, which drives action—and only action turns vision into reality.

Actions transform reality.

So the cycle flows from mission to vision to inspiration to innovation, which motivates action and drives your process to vision achievement. The cycle is propelled by energy ignited in people by inspiration, innovation and the vision. You can lead this new energy production. And the new energy is powerful and contagious.

There’s an important additional bonus too: Attainment of your current vision will cause your team to understand a further or additional vision they can now go attain!

Innovating Toward Strategic Leadership
This process will also enable you personally to grow your leadership abilities and capabilities to build and create in the future. As you inspire your team members during the process and you motivate and drive innovation, your team will derive energy to operate more effectively, and to innovate and improve.

What does that do for you as a leader? It allows you more time to look forward, to look upward at possibilities. You will have more time to think about strategy and determine the answer to the most important item that remains unaddressed for most organizations: Where is the organization going? Where are you leading your team? Are you leading them towards a rich gold mine? Or a desert? To positivity and fulfillment, or disappointment? Where you are leading your enterprise is as important as operational execution, because it represents the upside, or the best-case scenario, your organization is striving toward. Understanding and communication the strategic goals of your organization determines whether your team is achieving or not achieving its potential.

I have experienced this in the four different private equity and venture capital firms I have co-founded—I’ve steered each away from the “me too” investing other firms do, which produces so-so returns, and aimed towards more growth, value added and innovation. That mindset has produced great returns and attracted amazingly talented people. I’ve experienced many examples over the past 40 years of our management teams leading their companies away from what the crowd was doing and towards newer models of patient care and new payment models, and benefited patients’ health.

The final pathway to a great organization is teaching your team to run this virtuous cycle themselves, from vision to accomplished reality, and then on to new visions. This is the process that I enthusiastically employ while striving with wonderful teammates to achieve wonderful visions!

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