We Need Leaders Who Are Realistically Unrealistic

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 2 min.

To get things done well, we need to be realistic. We need to understand and rely on concrete things such as priorities, constraints, people’s talents and motivators, and how everything fits together. We need to build the team’s capacity and repeatedly deliver on spec, on budget, and on time.

To choose what things we are going to get done, we need to be unrealistic. We have to detach from reality (the way things are now) so that we can see and tell a story about how things are going to be. And we have to inspire ourselves and others by believing so much in this vision that everyone can feel the excitement of it–as if it were already done.

It’s a bit of a balancing act, for sure. And it’s a necessary one.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: It can be hard to be both realistic and unrealistic. We each prefer being one or the other. Companies sometimes handle this by matching unrealistic leaders with realistic ones: an unrealistic CEO with a realistic COO, an unrealistic marketing VP with a realistic sales VP, etc. When this is impractical, we must balance both ourselves.

 

Today’s photo credit: Mike Licht cc

Are You the Visionary or the Builder?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 2 min.

In his book, The Hard Thing About the Hard Things, Ben Horowitz reminds us that there are two types of leaders. He calls them, appropriately, Ones and Twos. We might call them the Visionary and the Builder. Neither is better. All organizations need both types.

The Visionary focuses on the big picture, the strategy, and the key decisions. They bring broad awareness, connections amongst disparate facts, factors, and sectors, curiosity, drive, and clarity of direction. Their blind spots include micromanaging, fire fighting, and BSO (Bright Shiny Object) Syndrome. Companies with too much Visionary leadership end up unable to get traction, repeating mistakes, and struggling to make profits consistently.

The Builder focuses on people, systems, capacity, and sustainability. They bring concerted action, structure, rhythm, awareness of what’s broken or incomplete, delegation, and accountability. Their blind spots include analysis paralysis, incremental (versus wholesale) improvements,  and inflexibility. Companies with too much Builder leadership end up behind the times, outmaneuvered, and stale.

We are predominately either the Visionary or the Builder. Unless we balance our type with the qualities of the other type, we will hobble our organizations. We can strike that balance by developing ourselves and/or by hiring leaders of the other type.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Read Ben’s original blog post about Ones and Twos.

 

Today’s photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey cc