Vision is the ability to see new possibilities. It includes both perceptions of how things can change and irrepressible hope and optimism that provides the energy for the vision.
Many leaders in history have had vision—but not had the required ability or skills to discern the steps needed to turn vision into reality. This seemed to be true of Jimmy Carter when he was President of the United States. Ironically, he has been a much more effective visionary leader as a former President!
Other leaders have vision and know how to turn it into reality, but the vision is warped or even diabolical. Hitler was the greatest and worst, though certainly not the only, example in the 20th century.
Jesus was a man of vision, and his vision was the kingdom of God. This should be the Christian’s vision as well. It is our constant prayer—that God’s kingdom may come; that his will may be done on earth as in heaven. Effective Christian leaders are those who know how to align their specific, present strategic vision with the trajectory of the kingdom of God, rather than veering off in another direction while also recognizing that the kingdom of God in its fullness is God’s work, not something they can bring about through their own efforts or cleverness.
Experience is also important in good leadership. Through experience, leaders learn how to increase their effectiveness. An inexperienced leader of vision and good character can be effective, but is sure to make mistakes. Though no substitute for vision and character, experience is a golden asset. In most cases, an experienced leader will be more effective than an inexperienced one.
In the Old Testament, we see how God worked to prepare leaders like Moses, David, Esther, Deborah and Joseph through a series of difficult experiences.
The New Testament also gives examples, including Jesus’ training of the Twelve. Paul advises that prospective deacons “must first be tested” before being given diaconal responsibilities (1 Tim. 3:8-10 NIV). Hebrews 5:8 tells us that Jesus himself “learned obedience from what he suffered” (NIV). The experience of suffering helps shape character and increases a leader’s compassion, provided one is open to its lessons.