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,
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.