The Visionary style of leadership was initially described by Daniel Goleman as postulated in his theory of Emotional Intelligence. 

These leaders are the designated experts in their particular niche and are capable of visualizing and implementing a clear-long term strategy. A significant advantage they have is their ability to gauge impediments and foresee roadblocks due to their past experiences and hence come up with adaptive plans that may accommodate changes in the task or project along the way.

The signature skill of this style is the ability to convince other people about the viability of their vision and gain everyone's trust. These leaders tend to display a record of success in a specific project that they're envisioning, and hence, the team entrusts them with their capabilities and respects their judgment.

Though these leaders are experts in a particular field, they too, like affiliative leaders do not have a problem with trusting their followers to find novel ways to achieve their deliverables. As experts and curious people, they know enough to know that they don't know everything and hence, may rely on individual members' expertise. 

Visionary Leadership
Visionary leadership

When and where is it used? 

Though the other leadership styles were slightly more efficient in different circumstances, Daniel Goleman regarded the romantic style to be the most effective in times where the organization and the company lacks a big-picture thinking and overall vision, while the team is jumping from one short-sighted objective to another. 

These times of aimless drifting is where a Visionary Leader shines their best, by serving as the North Star that helps the company set particular metrics and also help the team plan and achieve their specific short-term objectives aligned to the specific long-term metrics. Within an organization's when teams are functioning in silos, it creates a wedge between short execution and the company vision. Here, the visionary leader helps bridge this communication gap by liaising with the management and the employees.

These leaders have a compelling picture for their end goals and tend too look towards the future and foresee any challenges that may come today so that they can be proactive in rising to the said specific challenge. They imbue their team and organization with this clarity that results in infectious evangelism for their vision from their side. Thay may use various tools like organizational charts or OKRs to achieve their alignment and ensure they seek compliance not through coercion or power, but by sheer positive influence. 

More often than not, the employees tend to become naturally receptive due to the environment nurtured by the Visionary Leaders. To achieve the end goal, these leaders even provide free-reign and liberty for abundant creativity, which in turn is respected by the employees. When culture is combined with their steadfast trust, it results in a communal and collaborative effort that proceeds full throttle towards making the long term goal a reality. This ability to drive commitment is what sets this style apart from other leadership styles. 

Who is more suitable to work with Visionary leaders?

Modern Millenials who are now the majority of the workforce in the united states cite lack of clear vision and meaning in the career as two of the significant impediments at work. This generation along with Gen Z is also nicknamed as the "Instagram" generation, owing to their constant obsession with frequent social network updates and interactions. Though it is unfair to categorize them as just social network addicts, they do have brought forth an essential problem into the highlight that's a significant issue in modern workforce productivity.

Modern knowledge workers are often bombarded by an overwhelming influx of information which is painfully distracting, here devoting time to any specific tasks for prolonged periods becomes a challenge. Here's where we need a clear view of the path and our trajectory on this path. Humans are psychologically wired to find patterns and stories to anything they do. Visionary leadership complements this psychological need by meeting the two necessities sought explicitly by the yearnings of a modern worker. 

1. The clear picture of long-term goal towards which they need to be progressing

2 .A clear perspective on where they are currently standing, concerning the above progress.

This clarity of action inspires collective action with a common goal at its center, giving the team and the organization a competitive advantage. 

Since these leaders also provide complete autonomy for the contributors to complete their tasks as they fit, which the millennials very much appreciated. Modern visionary leaders have learned to embrace the transformational changes and cultural shock that the contemporary workforce is bringing to their workplace and have started to see the adoption of the latest ideas, processes as progress. This ability to adapt to new technologies also makes them one of the most approachable leadership with the millennial and gen z workforce. 

Though they easily attract younger ground, it doesn't mean they don't fare as well with the rest of their teammates, as natural relationship builders, these leaders place a lot of emphasis on both initiating and solidifying a healthy and empowering relationship with all their employees. Here, their above-average communication skills tend to help them convince their employees not as subordinates, but as a fellow collaborators in the long term objective. This constant nurturing of respect, team spirit, and learning instill a sense of collective identity, where every participant wants the best for the team.  Here, the visionary leader's ability to have a perspective that is always on the lookout for something better than the status quo, helps them build a harmonious and bright future for themselves, their team and their organization.

Pros and cons of Visionary Leadership 

The positives of Visionary Leadership is their team building capabilities and driving an unfulfilled vision through collective inspiration. The modern generation appreciates the adoption of the latest technologies, while the rest of the team members relish the sense of team spirit and clarity of vision. 


  • Experts who can effortlessly drive a vision
  • There's an effective increase in the long-term commitment
  • Every team member takes the initiative, accountability for the long term goals
  • Can shape long-term strategy while also implementing short term goals.


  • Too much freedom for employees may become counterintuitive.
  • Unlike affiliative leaders, they don't tolerate excuses once a plan has been strategized.
  • Some team members who are resistant to constant change may find it as a cultural shock.

Though there are minimal disadvantages to visionary leadership, it has specific deficits concerning immediate execution and driving fast results. Since the visionary leader is inherently aligned towards the long term company vision and goals, when pressed against a corner, they tend to push back for a more considerable time and seek alignment before progress.

Daniel goleman leadership styles
Daniel goleman leadership styles

Difference between Visionary Leadership and other Goleman leadership styles

As Daniel Goleman asserted, these six seem to be the most common leadership styles that were demonstrated under the managers he studied. 

Pacesetting Leadership and Visionary Leadership

Pace-setting Leadership 

  • Cares about the deadline
  • Prioritizes quality and execution
  • Impatient towards slow progress

Visionary Leadership 

  • Cares about long term goals
  • Prioritizes alignment
  • Intolerant towards rushing objectives

Affiliative Leadership and Visionary Leadership

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about harmony
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Helps form connections

Visionary Leadership

  • Cares about accountability
  • Clarity oriented
  • Gains respect through expertise

Coercive Leadership and Visionary  Leadership

Coercive Leadership 

  • Aims to help the team perform
  • Based on authority
  • Focused on hierarchy

Visionary Leadership

  • Expects team to execute
  • Based on knowledge
  • Focus on execution

Coaching Leadership and Visionary leadership

Coaching Leadership 

  • Sets goals
  • Help see mistakes
  • Emphasis on new skills

Visionary  Leadership

  • Clarifies outcome
  • Motivates persistence
  • Emphasis on accountability

Democratic Leadership  and Visionary Leadership 

Democratic Leadership

  • Arrives at a consensus
  • Collaboration and decision-oriented 
  • Emphasis on common goals

Visionary Leadership 

  • Makes decisions alone
  • Gives priority to expertise
  • Emphasis on overall progress
Visionary Leadership Characteristics
Visionary Leadership Characteristics

 7 Characteristics of Visionary Leaders

Influencing- These leaders are keen observers of intrinsic motivation and are not shy to leverage their employee strengths to drive business goals.

Open-minded- They are open to new ideas and approaches to solve existing and future problem. Because of this leadership's strong trust in individual expertise, they help teammates come up with novel ideas and motivate them to see through.

Fair- These leaders have standardized rules to be followed by every employee, and everyone one gets penalized irrespective of to what extent they broke or "bent" the rules. 

Dreamers- The wealth of their ideas of a visionary leader lies in their imagination. They continuously seek novel approaches and try to break the limits of the status quo. This constant nudge in exploration gels well with millennial teammates who find this as an excellent opportunity to bring creativity.

Stoic- Extraneous circumstances rarely catch visionaries off-guard. They see minor inconveniences as a part of the long term commitment and are quick to come up with a workaround. They rarely give in to pressure, and in-fact share their clarity to motivate their teammates.

Unconventional- Though they are set in their ways to achieve results, these leaders display a blatant disregard for the traditional method of gauging people's strength and weaknesses. They can quickly recognize which person is most suitable for a position and will deliver the fastest result. 

Dogged- Their persistence to hold their ground is one of the most significant positives of this style. They are fully aware of the commitment they have sought to pursue and are always thinking in terms of achieving their end goal. Even seemingly impossible situations are easily overcome by leaders through subject expertise.

A simple example of how Visionary Leadership plays out

  • Communicate with expertise
  • Help them understand how the difficulty is inherent
  • Emphasize how a minor workaround can quickly help them stay on track with the long-term goal

Hi, Pete, I think your designs are too heavy on the website. I just had a quick chat with a designer, and he believes our images need to be in the SVG format (communicate with clarity) 

I am entirely aware of how you only want the best designs for our site, and it is going to be a hassle to keep converting every image, but this is a minor roadblock compared to our long term strategy (Help them Understand how slight difficulty is inherent) 

I have come across a few tools that I have e-mailed to you. I hope you go through them and make the specified changes, from here-on you can automate this process so that it does not affect your initial workflow. (Emphasize how a minor workaround can quickly help them stay on track with the long-term goal) 

How do I use the Visionary leadership style? 

Visionary leadership is the perfect example of a transformative agent. While most leaderships focus on driving results through short-term metrics and updates, these leaders tend to look at the big picture and sustainability of the whole process over the long term.

They are significant believers in leveraging every opportunity to make something more efficient and leap at every chance to automate redundant workflows to help their teams drive their efforts towards other pertinent activities. The liberty they provide to achieve individual outputs by whatever means necessary is welcome within the millennial workforce. While their clarity of vision and subject expertise, also influences other members of a multi-generational team. As a modern leader, your employee morale and trust are the strongest intrinsic motivators that tend to pay off big in the long-term. If you are a leader who is not looking for immediate changes, but for optimization of existing process and workflow to achieve long-term self-sustainability, then the visionary leadership will be the perfect pick amongst all the leadership style to persistently guide your team to your grand vision!