Pink text on a blurry face that says The Rehearsal Hall


Leadership without vision is actually management.

Vision is one of the ten attributes all leaders should work on developing. (I’ll share the other nine in future Rehearsal Hall posts). But, without vision, the others don’t matter much.

Welcome to the Rehearsal Hall – a bi-weekly article on leadership development. The rehearsal hall is one of the most magical places in a physical theatre. It’s a room where the creative team practices, tests, and explores performance expression without an audience. Actors come in with a limited understanding of their characters — and through playing and experimenting, they find their meaning and action and step into their character’s heart and mind. This usually takes 3-6 weeks, and then they perform. This pre-work sets them up to be magic when with an audience.

In the same way, this Rehearsal Hall gives you a short lesson on a specific aspect of incredible leadership. Plus, a related creative exercise to rehearse with your inner leader — hoping that the exercise opens something within you that helps you be the leader you want to be.

I offer these exercises to you because leadership is an art and specialty that requires deep attention, creativity, and opening. It is unlikely you have done any of these exercises in traditional leadership training; most are time-tested exercises from theatre, visual art, and meditation that I’ve merged into my Kerri way of teaching. I’m excited to see what these practices open for you.

Every other Thursday, I share Studio Notes based on your questions, practice reports, and insights from the Rehearsal Hall work.

A Leader’s Primary Role

The primary responsibility of a leader is to have a strategic vision of what their department, unit, company, and team will become and communicate that at every level. This is not completing an annual plan with a list of things to do and timelines. It’s a more in-depth, artful, dynamic, and collaborative practice.

In Ibarra’s “Act Like a Leader, Think like a Leader,” she shared that vision is one competency that leaders struggle with.

“…envisioning the future direction of the company is one of the dimensions of leadership competency on which most participants invariably fall short, compared with other skills such as team building and providing rewards and feedback.” (Page 43)

What is Vision?

Vision is called all sorts of things, such as having a north star, futurist thinking, strategic seeing, and sensing. It’s all about knowing where you are taking the team. You understand the current state, yet you hold the future vision in your mind and heart at the same time. You see beyond the borders of your team and company and see how it plays with and influences the broader system.

Oddly, this is easiest to see in a theatre or film director. They have a grand vision of how a story will be told and what the result will look and feel like.

“A director is the captain of the ship; he gets the vision of the film before anyone else can. While I want to experiment with characters, I know a good director means I am in safe hands.” – Koel Mallick

Imagine a film director showing up on the first day of a film shoot to say, “We all read the same script, and our goal is to make a film within six months; let’s map out who is doing what.”Imagine their focus was on the division of tasks and the timeline. The budget. The deliverables. They never shared how they wanted the film to look or feel or how it would move an audience. What kind of film would be made, and how inspired would the creative team be to make it? Leaders without vision are just managers. A leader’s primary responsibility is vision — nurturing the ability to sense, share, collaborate on, and strategize a vision of how things will be. A film director would never arrive without a vision. So, why do leaders in other sectors show up without one?

Historically, vision has come from the top down, but as technology and work structures have changed, all leaders emerging through experience can invest in this skill. Vision qualifies you for leadership roles long before others are ready.

The bonding benefits of leadership vision

I shared the film director analogy on LinkedIn and asked if anyone had a leadership vision story to share.


Jason’s story illustrates not only did the leader’s vision ability lead them to work hard, but it also built belonging. The vision made work feel part of something special – isn’t that what we all want?

And there is this secondary element here, too – it led to lifelong bonding. They remained friends years later because of seeing a vision come to life. This again reminds me of the arts. I studied and worked in theatre for over a decade and still feel connected to people I was in shows with.

Sometimes, we had a great director. Other times, if the director was terrible, we bonded over a different vision.



If the vision doesn’t come from you, it’ll come from elsewhere – there will be a titleless leader.

Your team may develop one if you don’t share a strong vision. It used to be vision was communicated from the top down, but not anymore. When a person at any level shares a vision, it will be stickier if a more robust vision isn’t shared elsewhere. A vision gives stability, inspiration, and hope.

When training leaders to detect vision in employees (who aren’t leaders yet), I ask them to look for three things:

  1. Do they sense a concern and bring it forward with a suggested solution?
  2. Do they share outside influences that may help the team or work?
  3. Do they ask, “Have you ever thought about doing things this way?”

The quality of their solutions may not be on target, but they are showing vision.

Vision as a trust-maker

Nola Simon shared how vision helped improve connection and customer experience and establish a new business relationship worth over $1 billion.

I once shared a vision that we should redefine our definition of team.In the role we worked at the intersection of sales and service and I saw that everything was too siloed. Sales members in the field (3000 miles away) often felt disconnected because they couldn’t just pick up the phone and get a quick answer from someone they trusted. I started adopting my sales reps as my team members and started getting calls from all over the US saying « I was told I could trust you ». It led to a speaking gig in Minneapolis for the 50th anniversary of a key business partner, a relationship worth over $1 billion. The CEO introduced me to his clients as the most important person to know at my company. I also partnered with a new initiative in remote relationship management to amplify the service which was critical during the pandemic, long after I left.

What is easy to miss in Nola’s story is that no one else at the company had the vision to redefine the definition of team in her company. You can spot a lack of vision wherever underperformance and lagged communication thrive. It was dysfunctional, yet Nola devised a vision instead of suggesting re-organizing teams or duties. She saw how things could be and shared that vision. It shifted everything.

Furthermore, in the last part of her story, she speaks about using vision again to establish a remote relationship management initiative long before remote work was a hot topic. This is the power of vision in leadership – these leaders can sense shifts long before anyone else and imagine a strategy to support the needed changes. It can take years to see if they are on the right track.

Vision is developable.

There are always people, like my great friend, Galit Ariel, who almost effortlessly sense where things are going, where they’d like to see things go, and what needs to change to make the more optimistic vision a reality.

Vision is something you can develop in yourself and others — if you’re eager to learn how — scroll down to the exercises.

One thing to keep in mind when developing vision as a leadership development coach/trainer

If you’ve noticed that the leaders in your organization lack vision, it’s essential to know that vision has levels. And, while it is trainable, some leaders may only be interested/capable of level one base vision.

They’ll have other fantastic attributes, but a concrete-thinking, assertive, collaborative leader won’t likely want to develop high-level vision skills. We always want to support leadership excellence, but base-level vision can be enough – especially when paired with other attributes. We don’t need all leaders to have a level 3 vision.

When I design vision-developing programs, I use the following grid to help a leader identify where they are skill-wise and where they want to go. This keeps the development plan relevant and realistic for both of you. A leader with low vision often needs to experience the ease of buy-in before they work on level 2 or 3.

For non-development coaches – you can use this to assess your vision.

Don’t be surprised to see how you are low on level one vision attributes. It’s what Ibarra calls “vision-blind.” Leaders aren’t even aware they don’t have a vision because they’re focused on putting out fires and an already bloated workload. Try the two short exercises below to enhance your vision skills if you are low.

You can’t work on what you can’t see – where are you in the grid below?




For your personal use only.


Two exercises to develop base vision:

Today, I offer two exercises to help you develop your vision. These work for all skill levels of vision — so even if you operate at level three, you’ll find these tickle the visioning part of your brain well. I’ll return to vision in upcoming Rehearsal Hall articles. If you truly want to be at level three, the best place to focus your attention is on the Monday Meditation practices.

Exerrcise 1: Sense-walk.

One of the first skills to build out is the ability to sense things without analyzing them. Sensing is tuning into what your environment is saying to you.

Take yourself for a walk, ideally in nature. An urban nature path or city park will work. Walk at a regular or leisurely pace, and when something calls for your attention, pause and soak it in. This may be the sound of a bird. An interesting snowflake or leaf. It might be the sensation of wind on your face. Don’t judge or analyze why something has pulled your attention; notice it and focus on that sensory event for as long as possible. Once it has passed, or you lose focus, ask yourself, “Does it want to show me more?” And, sense if you should move closer to the object or sound, stay still, or drop it and wait for something else to catch your attention.

Try doing this sense walk a few times over the next week. It can be as short as five minutes. You are training yourself to be present to external messages without analyzing them first. You’re showing yourself that your sensing side exists and can be tuned into. And you’re learning how to listen to signals from the field.

I would love to hear your reports about your sense walk, what came up, what was awesome, what sucked? And, if you have questions about how to do it or how to work with something that came up, please ask. You can share in the comments, and I’ll address them in next Thursday’s Studio Notes.  

Exercise 2: Merge with a new theory.

Go into Google and type “theory” and then whatever random word you can think of and search.

I chose ostrich as an example.

Read about the theory. Give time for it to settle. Over the next few days, think about the theory you just learned about and try using the theory on an existing project.

For example, the Ostrich Effect is when people avoid negative information instead of dealing with the situation.

I can take the Ostrich Effect and see how it links to the leadership development program at work. Or I can think about my habits and where I avoid negative information.

You’re practicing taking an outside idea to see things differently internally. Sometimes, the root of low vision comes from never looking beyond your work.

Share your experiences

Please share how the exercises worked (or didn’t work) for you. Share reports and insights, and if you have questions about vision, these exercises or anything else, send me a note, and I’ll address it in next week’s Studio Notes.

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