PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS STRIVING for improvement. And visionaries paint an attractive picture of the future.

Leaders are the ones who can make the connection between the two.

The challenge is to pick a vision which is attractive, believable, and attainable. But you may have discovered that each of these is squishy, with lots of room for challenges.

A vision is only attractive to some people. Even something glorious like “improve lives for everyone on the planet” will often fail because people are a complex mix of selfishness and selflessness. We say we want to remove pain from others’ lives, but often only to the extent that it doesn’t negatively impact our own.

Even if the vision is attractive, is it believable? People have a wide variety of opinions about global warming, or elimination of war, or eradication of disease. Often these efforts will stumble because there aren’t a sufficient number of people who believe we can make any kind of difference.

Even if I believe in the goal, do I think it’s attainable? This is where we can learn from leaders like John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. Each helped create a picture so vibrant and compelling that people started to think there might just be a path to success.

How does this apply to business?

As a leader, you probably have a picture in mind about what success looks like. Perhaps it’s unlimited riches, or a team that is inspired and world-leading, or ecstatic customers.

There’s a good chance that you’re ahead of your people. That’s why you’re taking the leadership role.

If that vision isn’t particularly attractive to your people, then you either have to change the vision or change the people. Yes, you might be motivated by the thought of owning a private island, but it’s hard to motivate people around making YOU rich. Are they going to share in the abundance? Even so, material riches only go so far for most people.

Your vision might not be believable. If you’re trying to take on Wal-mart or Amazon or Exxon head-on, then you’d better be starting from an amazingly strong position. Otherwise, people will believe your company will be crushed. Often the solution in this situation is to run around the dominant competitors to achieve a more compelling goal. Maybe you’ll make the entire oil & gas industry irrelevant with your new form of energy.

For your folks to rally around the goal, they also have to believe that it’s attainable in a more practical sense. It’s more than just a “We can do this! Believe me!” speech – it’s sustained evidence that we have or can get the skills, the resources, the power to make the vision happen.

If the vision is driving your business, there’s going to be an incredible amount of energy aligned to make it happen. It will be a part of almost every discussion and decision. Measurements and rewards will support where you’re trying to go.

Then, as you chip away at it month by month and year by year, you’ll be getting the support of your employees, partners, and even customers.

Don’t falter. Michelangelo worked on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel over the course of 33 years. The moon landing took nearly a decade.

The most important things take time.