Leadership on its own is hard work. Leaders require many skills, but one particularly important ability successful leaders must have is vision. Despite being clichés of success, companies like Amazon and Apple are time and again exemplary largely because their leaders have been able to visualize the future and steer their followers—employees and customers—toward this vision of the future. As important as vision is, a leader’s vision is almost useless if that leader can’t communicate her vision to her team. This is where David Sibbet’s new book Visual Leaders enters the scene. How do we as leaders communicate with the people responsible for the multitude of different operations that amount to the larger function of moving our organization forward? As Sibbet demonstrates, there is a new trend in leadership communication, and it dovetails beautifully with the very idea of vision.
Sibbet kicks the book off with a kind of overview, “Seven Essential Tools for Visual Leaders”. This includes more basic principles such as metaphors and models, but it also holds specific tools, such as video and virtual visualization via digital media. The underlying idea is, of course, that communication that goes beyond simple text will create a better learning experience. Certain cognition theory reinforces this; there is a benefit to using symbols or images in conjunction with text, and Sibbet’s tools all stem from this fundamental idea.
The book offers HeathEast Care System in St. Paul, Minnesota as a case study. Over the course of two years, two of HeathEast’s mid-level managers created what they call a ‘Quality Vision’, a clear and highly visual description of the direction of their organization. This was then shared with staff and the visualization has helped HeathEast focus on the big-picture goals, turning those goals into more than nebulous ideas or business-speak.
Visual Leaders delivers on its promise, offering actual tools for visually communicating and documenting ideas, as well as the tools to roll these ideas into powerful visualizations that can be shared both inside and outside the walls of your organization. Sibbet offers an understanding of mental models, and this connection helps to propel the implementation of the more template-oriented content in the book. If you’ve been bumping your head against a wall in search of new ways to help your management communicate with each other and the rest of your organization, Visual Leaders might just be the book you’ve been looking for.