The Q's of Qlick: Vision - Qlick

The Q's of Qlick: Vision

Qlick letters

The Q's of Qlick: Vision

‘The Q’s of Qlick’, is a series of interviews in which we invite inspiring business leaders for a conversation on leadership. We consciously chose these leaders because we believe they each have a particular skill in the different competencies of 3D-leadership.

Wim Dejonghe is Senior Partner of Allen & Overy (A&O). It is with great pleasure that I  interview him on the topic of Vision, an essential part of 3D-leadership.

What is vision?

Wim describes vision as knowing which way you are going. He and I both notice how he talks about ‘you’ as in ‘he himself’ and ‘the company’.

‘In my role, my own vision and the vision of the organization very often go hand in hand’, Wim says.  I find it interesting that he says this spontaneously. When we as coaches debrief  a 3D-leader assessment, we always look at the link between the self-assessment of someone’s identity awareness and how ‘defined’ they consider the vision for the company to be.  The closer the link, the more ‘at ease’ someone usually feels in their company. It is exactly this ease of being that is very present in this interview.

The 3 pillars of vision

In A&O, there are three pillars of vision and these could easily be applicable to any other company:

  1. Your role in society
  2. Your role towards your people
  3. Your role towards your clients

Wim expands on all three areas. His vision shines through as he talks about developments following the financial crisis of 2008 and how A&O continuously shifts its strategy to adapt to global trends. Time and again, he makes the point that setting and executing a vision is a team effort and that this is essential for continuing success.

Vision is about knowing where you are going and the ability to see broader

Wim believes in the importance of a broader vision in addition to analytical capability. ‘Leadership is an art, not a science. Many university degrees teach science, not art’.

For Wim, leadership is ultimately about judgment calls. If you are not taking any risks, you are not going to be a leader.

The link with innovation

A&O received an award for the most innovative lawfirm 7 times in a row, but Wim stays very modest about this. We talk about the importance of technology, integrating practices from different sectors, digital innovation initiatives, the necessity to constantly challenge the way you do things, and setting up systems and structures to engage people.  A key challenge is how to move from the first to the second wave of innovation and how to engage the entire organization rather than just the people who have an interest, Wim says.

When talking about innovation, Wim highlights the importance of leaving room for failure; I am glad he stresses this. There should be more stories of sharing what went wrong since this provides for most learning opportunities.

Short term versus long term vision

Wim says that this is not either/or and stresses the importance of staying in touch with the market in terms of the established measurement of profit per partner in the legal industry. At A&O, there are constant conversations about what the priorities are. ‘It is about the balance between short- and long-term vision and you never achieve the right balance’, Wim says. What strikes me as he talks about this is his ability to feel comfortable with this creative tension.

It’s all about execution

To have vision is one thing, to deliver it, is another!

We discuss the leadership aspects of executing a vision and ownership and I am reminded of my GE times when we did a lot of work on making the vision ‘actionable’. A vision only makes sense if it is reflected in the behavior of the people; when it is a shared vision. It is about inspiring and leading a team. Wim stresses this point: ‘When you have a consensual vision, delivering becomes much easier’.

Tips on vision

Some advice from Wim to other leaders and some additional input on the topic of vision

  • A vision is strongest when it becomes a shared vision
  • Consider tailoring your vision to different stakeholders (e.g. your people, your customers, your shareholders and/or larger society)
  • Vision is about inspiring other people and doing it in a team
  • When you have a consensual vision, delivering becomes much easier
  • To have a vision is one thing, to deliver it is another. Execution is key!
  • The vision of a company should be visible in the behavior of the people who work in that company
  • Vision is knowing where you are going (focus) and broadening your scope
  • Vision is linked with innovation and leaving room for failure is important

Be inspired and challenged by the interview with Wim and don’t forget… Vision is the strongest when it is a shared vision and when not just you but the whole organization learns to truly open their eyes.

Listen to the full interview on our youtube channel.