Visionary or People Manager?

Thursday, May 23 2013

At The Achievement Centre, we distinguish between visionary leaders and those who manage people. Many entrepreneurs are visionaries. They look into the future and see things not as they are today, but as they could become. They think in big, broad landscapes. They can see the colours, the shapes, and the size of their future business. They connect the normally unconnected, see paths and opportunities where others see obstacles. They are optimistic, creative and believe that they can turn their vision into reality.

Unfortunately, many visionaries are not good managers of people. They often lack the patience to deal with those who don’t get their vision. They get bored with the details. They need strong people around them to translate their high level ideas into practical plans and strategies that can be carried forward by the rest of the team.

When businesses are small, the entrepreneur may be required to play both roles; but, as the company grows, the two roles may need to be separated and more clearly defined. Otherwise the visionary leader gets bogged down in the day-to-day activities of running a business. He or she will be perpetually frustrated with having to make vital, but niggling decisions, and addressing the petty people issues that, if left unresolved, become dramas of Hollywood proportion.

On the other hand, if the leader is more of a people manager and not a visionary, the company can lose direction. Over time it is likely to atrophy, losing employees who don’t understand where the company is going and customers who are attracted to other suppliers with clearer focus and more energy.

As you consider the successor for your business, decide whether you need a visionary, a people manager or both? A visionary may take the business in a totally different direction. Are you okay with that? A people manager will continue to work toward your vision, but once you’re gone may not know how to take it any further. Could the business continue under that kind of leadership?

Your natural tendency may be to replace yourself with someone who is just like you. That may work, but consider whether your future business requires someone with great vision or great people management skills. While it may not be as black and white as I’ve painted it, your decision will set the stage for your business legacy.