Inspiring vision, part 5: Define the future you want to create

Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

After you have shown your audience why they need to change, you then need to bring them that hope.

In a way, this is the easiest part of your vision to define. You know the direction you want to take, and you know why it makes sense to you. You know the outcome that you want to create.

But how do you articulate all this in a way that inspires other people?

This building block is about showing people who they could become, so the usual way to create hope is to describe a future that people can aspire and look forward to. Martin Luther King did this well when he said:

“I have a dream… I have a dream… I have a dream…”

He did not say, “I have a problem I need to be solved.”

But you can also inspire people by describing a future that is filled with toil and struggle. In the bleak beginnings of World War Two, Winston Churchill needed his people to keep going. Inspiration for them at that stage came from the thought of not giving up:

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets… We shall never surrender.”

Both approaches worked. Both were appropriate for their time. And both speakers used repetition for effect.

Another way to create a clear vision of the future is to set out a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goal. This is what John F Kennedy did when he announced America’s intention to go to the moon:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Alternatively, you could state your direction vaguely and metaphorically, as Donald Trump did when he won the Republican nomination and the presidency by promising to

“Make America great again.”

Moses promised to lead his people to a

“land flowing with milk and honey.”

Despite this lack of precision, or perhaps because of it, his audience followed him through the wilderness for 40 years.

There is no single right way to define the future state you want to create or the ‘hope’ Napoleon tells you to bring your audience. There is only what works for you and them, now. But defining it well can have a very powerful impact.

Adapted from Inner Leadership.

Photo By S. Bhaskara Rao via

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