Are you a visionary leader or a luminary leader?
When the idea came to me to write a post about the difference between a visionary leader and a luminary leader, I wasn’t sure I knew the difference. I even posted the image I made for this post on Facebook days before writing the actual post, with a question, “Which are you?”
I was hoping that people would raise their hand and identify themselves as luminary or visionary before reading the article. Instead I only got a few bites. The over all consensus was that no one really knew the difference. Which is why I was inspired to look at the difference between visionary and luminary leaders in the first place.
Here is how I interpret the difference.
Visionary Leaders Paint a Picture of Possibility
Nelson Mandela had a vision to see the end of apartheid in South Africa. His vision lead to persistent action and incredible endurance to seeing his vision manifest.
Visionary leaders paint a picture of what they envision is possible for the world, a community, or a project. They seem to have an ability to speak in words that activate all 5 senses. The image they share inspires other people to join them in taking action to see the vision manifest. Visionary leaders are all about the VISION.
Here is what Lisa Petrilli, author of The Introvert’s Guide to Success, says on her website about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his visionary leadership,
“He had an exquisitely clear vision and expressed it magnificently in his, “I Have a Dream” speech. While his goals may have included various steps along the way to passing civil rights legislation, his vision was so much bigger than his goals. His vision described exactly what it looked like when the real impact of his goals were felt, including famously…
‘I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’
Now that is a vision!
My favorite historical women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, had a vision that women would one day be able to vote alongside men. (Vision) 40 years after both of them had died, women were granted that right. Sometimes being a visionary means you are responsible for painting an image so clear that it can be carried out by the next generation.
Luminary Leaders Light the Way
Google’s online definition of a luminary is, “a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere.”
I like to look at Luminary Leader more literally, a body that gives off light. To me a Luminary leader is one that embodies light so much that they light the path for others. They show you what is possible because they embody their beliefs. They may be one step ahead of you on the path or they may be miles ahead leaving sign posts for you along the way.
Mother Teresa, wasn’t casting a vision and expecting others to follow her. She was lighting the way and embodying the light she wanted others to share. She devoted her life to helping the outcast and impoverished in the streets of Calcutta have someone to care for them in life and in death. Even when she knew what she wanted to do, she had no idea how to go about doing it. And somehow she illuminated the way for others to follow.
Carista Luminare, and Lion Goodman, co-founders of the Luminary Leadership Institute, claim that luminary leaders:
- Harness the powers of their True Self
- Embody their noble virtues
- Fulfill their soul’s destiny
A luminary leader then embodies as much power and light as possible to fulfill their soul’s destiny or calling. Being a luminary leader takes a lot of self-reflection and self-growth.
So Are You A Visionary Leader Or A Luminary Leader?
For most leaders, mentors, and coaches, we move in and out of both roles. Sometimes we are a visionary leader with a clear vision of the possibilities we see, and sometimes we are fulfilling our soul’s destiny by lighting the way for others.
One of my favorite ways to serve my coaching clients is seeing the vision of possibility for them. I’m really good at this. Seeing the vision for myself is a bit trickier so I ask my mentors to help me see the possibilities for me and my business. Learning to ask for help in this way, is not always easy for leaders, coaches and mentors. We are ‘supposed’ to be able to use our gifts and talents to help ourselves, right? Not always. Ask for help if you are having a hard time seeing the possibilities.
I have a vision of a world where every girl is free do the work she loves, be in any role she wishes, and have anything her heart desires. I believe that the more I do the work I love and embody the roles I wish to fill and have anything my heart desires, the more I’ll be able to light the way of freedom for others.
What is your vision? What path are you lighting?