Visionary LeadersArticle by Maynard Brusman, July 25, 2019
We live in an age of remarkable products and services from inventive thinkers with lofty ideas. These visionary leaders, who don’t think or work like anyone else, have started businesses based on novel concepts, and those whose achievements greatly impact society are afforded special status.
Employees often flock to these visionaries’ companies, hoping the future will offer prosperity within a corporate culture that promotes free thought, excitement and cutting-edge innovations. But some visionary leaders can be difficult bosses whose brainstorming and idealistic tendencies frustrate employees and create career obstacles.
As the term implies, “visionary” leaders like to walk among the clouds, devoting themselves to the future, the impossible and the things that could be. Unfortunately, businesses must be run with both a widescreen view and in-the-trenches focus, so pure visionaries with only big-picture mindsets are vulnerable to losing track of their enterprises.
While everyone admires visionary thinking, too much of it creates a dangerous imbalance. Fortunately, visionaries can learn effective ways to keep their companies healthy and productive.
Visionary leaders are bent on taking things to the next level, solving the unsolvable problem, and developing something unprecedented or revolutionary. While such ambition is worthy, pure visionaries tend to be interested only in conceptualizing business ideas, and they often fail to involve themselves in the execution stages.
Visionary leaders rely on their tactical thinkers—the ones with practical know-how of processes, procedures, policies and planning—to turn ideas into reality. Noted psychotherapist and leadership consultant Dr. Beatrice Chestnut describes visionary leaders’ idealistic tendencies in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Visionaries enjoy thinking about what might be and how companies can improve.
Visionaries are strictly future oriented. The present isn’t as interesting unless there’s room for improvement. They find their optimism and hope in the next chapter, and they see their role as enhancing lives by creating new possibilities. They love to think outside the box and push the envelope of what’s considered feasible.
Visionary leaders view circumstances through a cup-half-full filter. This helps feed their creative juices and blocks negative emotions that hinder them. Negativity deters the creativity visionaries need to feel purposeful and happy.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Visionary leaders have a positive impact on their organizations because they:
- Dream optimistically.
- Are always working on “the next big thing”. They want their organization to be a leader in its field, setting the pace for others to try and catch.
- Develop great brainstorming skills that overcome challenges.
- Turn negatives into positives.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Are often sought after to create solutions, bringing notoriety and opportunity to their organization.
From a negative standpoint, visionary leaders can be overly idealistic and creative. Their focus on the future draws them away from important tasks. They:
- Have too many ideas going at one time to properly prioritize, manage or execute.
- Brush off negative concerns from their staff, avoid problematic issues and overlook warning signs or mistakes.
- Find ways around roadblocks that impede their visionary process, often breaking the rules.
- Lose interest in non-creative tasks and duties, and ignore responsibilities.
- Prioritize activities based on what’s most fun for them.
- Have blind spots that lead them away from the actions required to understand and address serious issues.
- Are so unfocused that they fail to grasp current trends or the business climate.
- Have vague conceptual ideas that management cannot understand or appreciate.
- Aren’t detail oriented and have difficulty performing accurate work, meeting commitments or completing assignments.
- Think and speak so rapidly that they stop listening to others.
- Have such a strong emotional need to dream that they take their company in the wrong direction.
- Seek quick wins and disassociate from anyone who slows their creative process (with facts).
- Fail to address problems they deem insignificant.
What Makes a Visionary Tick?
The visionary’s mind runs far and fast. Ideas come naturally; the more unique, the better. The most active visionaries fashion ideas that interconnect and form a clever master plan.
Visionary leaders find joy in dreaming big. They’re drawn to considerable challenges, huge potential and foreseeable payoffs. They love learning and the freedom to use acquired knowledge.
Corporate systems, procedures and processes that slow them down or interfere with their creativity are regarded as roadblocks. They require positivity and actively avoid difficult or unpleasant experiences, sometimes at any cost. Visionaries typically disrespect members of the management team who raise problems.
The idea phase is much more desirable than the processing phase, where resources are assigned, schedules and deadlines are issued, and implementation tasks are identified, Dr. Chestnut explains. Implementation plans are grueling for them, as the freedom to think and create seems stifled. The visionary feels imprisoned under these conditions.
Coaching Promotes Balance
Visionaries can inspire an entire organization to new heights and compel people to accomplish the seemingly impossible. But when taken to extremes, the negatives overshadow the positives. Executive coaches, supervisors and mentors must emphasize the consequences in ways that preserve enthusiasm.
Time management is one of the primary areas requiring adjustment. Successful visionary leaders learn to ration dream time so other responsibilities are met. Limited time assigned to visionary work can be sufficiently rewarding.
Visionaries must also learn that others may not think as quickly as they do, Dr. Chestnut explains. Asking people to tackle multiple brainstorms is too overwhelming. Only selective ideas—not all—will be processed.
Living up in the clouds robs visionaries of life experiences and rewards on the ground, Dr. Chestnut adds. True, tactical leadership can be painful, frustrating and wearisome. But instead of avoiding these feelings, out of fear or insecurity, visionary leaders should face them, grow professionally, and build character, skill and confidence.
How to Work for a Visionary Leader
Visionaries are often distant and disconnected, so employees may wonder if their boss knows what’s going on. Employees should reach out and find ways to make a connection in a positive and confident manner.
Instead of citing problems, describe opportunities with solutions. Build trust with appreciation for the visionary’s brainstorming skills. Support leaders’ efforts to handle tactical duties.
Express interest in the vision: ask questions about specifics, applications and how the idea supports company activities. Offer to assist with research, setting up meetings, or introductions to other experts. Stay close to brainstorming sessions to monitor excessiveness, and divert leaders to the tactical side, when needed.
Help visionary leaders form new habits relating to time management, operational skills and relationship-building. A well-rounded leader takes care of the business while dreaming about the future.
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor
Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation
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Tags: emotional intelligence, executive coaching, leadership, leadership development, visionary leaders