How Gratitude Resolves the Dark Side of Visionary Leadership

A friend and CEO sent me an email after reading Monday’s post, “Can Gratitude Be a Bad Thing? Yes!

He writes, “Why do I feel this post began with my name?”

Dog peeking over the edge.

It's stressful living with 'not yet' churning in your gut.

“I find that when I spend my time planning the future – constantly looking out beyond the now – I can lose sight of the contribution of others in the present, especially if they don’t see what I see in the future.

It probably sounds and feels like I am ungrateful for their contributions in the present.”

The dark side of visionary leadership:

#1. Vision contaminates:

It’s stressful living with ‘not yet’ churning in your gut.

The success you celebrated yesterday becomes today’s ingratitude.

Imagined success makes present success unfulfilling.

  1. Vision for a strong team prevents you from appreciating the strengths in your struggling team.
  2. Vision for bigger impact shrinks satisfaction with small contribution.
  3. Vision for meaningful relationships magnifies disappointment with shallow connections.
  4. Vision for a team member’s development diminishes the value of slow steady progress.

One failure erases several successes of equal magnitude. (Bad is Stronger than Good)

#2. Dissatisfaction is a two-edged sword.

Dissatisfaction with current attainment often drives vision. But ingratitude follows dissatisfaction.

Gratitude only becomes gratitude after it’s expressed.

How might you express gratitude in an underwhelming present?

Gratitude in the present:

#1. Honor – don’t belittle.

You’re counting on your team to build the future. Why demotivate them with ingratitude?

Passion is never built by belittling the people who built yesterday’s vision.

(It’s true that some of the people who built yesterday’s vision may become irrelevant to tomorrow’s vision. Honor them anyway.)

#2. Progress – not attainment.

All attainments are achieved by incremental progress.

Express gratitude for progress, not simply attainment.

#3. Future building today.

The present isn’t the enemy. The future is built in the present.

Transform imagination into behavior.

How might leaders navigate ingratitude caused by vision?

Bonus material:

Mindfulness and Vision are Complementary (Stoner)

5 Shortcomings of a Visionary and How to Compensate (Forbes)

The Dark Side of Visionary Leadership in Strategic Implementation (JOM)