Are you a visionary or a two-percenter?

When you start your own business you usually have a goal in mind, something that you want to achieve, so why is that only a small percentage of us reach that goal, while the rest plod along or worse, lower our sights?

According to Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, Lecturer of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL) and Jennifer Landesberg, research assistant at UCL, the difference lies our ability or inability to really think about how the future should look. Martin Luther King Jr, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are examples of visionaries who have changed and are still changing our world.

So, just how visionary are you? Well, you can find out now by taking the test, but be prepared – someone we know has just taken it and only scored 2%… so much for living in the moment. It will help if you read the paper Ahmetoglu and Landesberg have just published before you start.

You may have a vision, but are you visionary enough to make it happen?

Written by Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, Lecturer of Business Psychology at University College London and Jennifer Landesberg

Behind all great companies is a vision. An idea, created by the founder, of what they want their business to look like in the future. Not only is the vision the very foundation of the company itself but it is the driving force that keeps them on track on their path to success. A vision has come to be understood as a future state which is believably possible and represents a condition that is better than now. It is arguably the vision that is at the centre of business growth and success. Despite the term “vision” being thrown around frivolously in the world of business there is actually very little understanding of why having a vision makes a company successful. Because essentially all companies have one, but what differentiates those who are really successful? What some people seem to miss is that it is not the vision itself that is the magic ingredient but the person behind that great vision who had the ability to create it: a visionary.

What does a visionary entrepreneur look like?

In order to be a true visionary, you must be able to envisage the future. Although at first this sounds like an ability best suited to a career in fortune telling, thinking frequently about the future is a key trait of visionary personality. For example, Elon Musk’s most recent vision is that you will be able to travel anywhere on earth in an hour. To be able to develop an idea, that to the lay person seems so far fetched and futuristic, he must firstly have the ability to think further into the future than others and also must think a lot about it, again more so than others do. In essence, entrepreneurs who are visionary have to be future oriented to develop their visions, which is also the skill that ensures they keep their vision alive. A future oriented entrepreneur does not sit down and write up the future for his/her company and file it away never to be seen again like the typical business owner, this kind of entrepreneur is always thinking about the future and is thinking far into. So far in fact that Elon Musk can see a future where I can travel from London to Australia in just one hour.

Not only does a visionary entrepreneur have to be “futuristic” but they must also have a tendency to want to change things for the better. They are the type of people that always are looking at where things can be improved. Take Martin Luther King Jr for example, he did not just sit pondering randomly about the future, he also had a strong desire to change the world for the better. And from this desire stemmed his revolutionary vision that the world would be far improved if all races were equal. This idea represented a state that was hugely different from the “racist” condition and extreme inequality that America faced at that time. Visionary entrepreneurs must have that same constant desire to change things for the better, but those who are really visionary think big in terms of the change they wish to make. Martin Luther King Jr did not just change his community but ended up changing the world with his vision.

What sets the really visionary entrepreneurs apart from the majority of business owners, is that their view of life is rather idealistic. Being idealistic means frequently wanting that best of what is possible from any situation, but the catch is that idealistic people have an inflated view of what they believe is actually possible. Whilst the typical business owner may believe it impossible for them to turn over 20 million pounds in one year, the idealist sees no reason as to why this couldn’t happen. Not only do they believe it, they have a constant and burning desire to achieve that ideal. As Steve Jobs put it himself – the people who are “crazy” enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. These people are the idealists.

The final and arguably most important ingredient for visionary success is the ability to influence those around you. Those who are able to manifest their visions into reality are the ones who are able to make other people buy into them. They have a unique ability to make others believe in the vision as much as they do themselves, so that everyone walks away convinced that the better future described is one they want to live in. Taking this back centuries, Henry Ford had to convince people that what they needed was an affordable mode of motorised transport when at the time all they thought they needed were faster horses. This requires the ability to influence people and a tendency to do it often. Steve Jobs was known for it, he was a “magical storyteller,” with his vision for the personal computer being so convincing and vivid that “you couldn’t help but buy in.”

So whilst many entrepreneurs have visions, those who have the potential to make them successful are the visionaries. Visionaries have an ability and tendency unlike other entrepreneurs to be futuristic, improvement oriented, idealistic and influential.

To find out if you have what it takes to turn your vision into a reality, take the test here.

At Nordens, we help business owners to clarify their vision, then – working together – we make it happen.  If you would like to know more about how our strategic business services can make your dreams come to fruition, call us on 020 8530 0720 or email

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