Visionary vs. manager: Why both are necessary in business
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
We bring our unique personalities into the workplace. Some of us enjoy creating new ideas, thinking about future improvements, and experimenting to improve matters. Others are the polar opposite. These are the people who enjoy taming chaos, managing the status quo, and streamlining processes.
Almost every organization has both of these personalities operating concomitantly with the inevitable clash where future meets present.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, all organizations need both these types of people because the balance is where most progress occurs. Too many visionaries in an organization leads to futuristic thinking without dealing with the present realities. Too many process-driven people lead to a static organization that does not compete with changing trends.
When one type of thinking dominates the other in a company, the failed outcome is predictable.
Take a look at the successful entrepreneurs who dream of a national empire, expand too quickly, and collapse because they were so busy dreaming about their future empire that they neglected the daily realities of their current enterprise. Those are the entrepreneurs who rejected the opposing viewpoints of managers who might have seemed too practical, too stodgy, too willing to “burst the bubble” of the entrepreneur. The collapse of such a one-sided organization is altogether foreseen.
Conversely, business pages are filled with the demise of former retail icons who faded away in ignominy. Why? The resounding lament is that they “didn’t change with the times,” were stuck in keeping the status quo while the marketplace changed around them, and then paid the ultimate price.
Consider bureaucratic organizations. Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy was a model to maximize efficiency, but doubtful that he would recognize it today. Today, bureaucracy and inefficiency are the norm.
Bureaucratic organizations are known for their rigidity, inflexibility, redundant and overwhelming paperwork; reliance on procedures even if counterproductive and antiquated; and a demand that consumers adhere to the system rather than the system cater to the consumer.
How did this perversion occur? Basically, because of its inherent preference for employees who enjoy procedures and maintaining the status quo. It became unbalanced without the pull of visionaries who enjoy tinkering with “the system.”
The organization eventually stops hiring those who would “rock the boat,” continues to hire like-minded thinkers, and the few visionaries that are accidentally hired eventually leave (either through voluntary or involuntary termination) out of frustration that they couldn’t pull the organization into forward thinking. What is left is an increasing dominance of daily managers who enjoy the routine of standardized procedures. And most consumers know what it feels like to interact with a bureaucracy.
As uncomfortable as it is to have your viewpoint challenged, it should be obvious that successful organizations need both visionaries and practical, day-to-day managers. It is the organic push-and-pull of polar thinking that keeps an organization fresh, productive, and able to cope with emerging trends.
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