What do you want in a leader? Is it the innovative vision of Steve Jobs? Or, is it the pragmatic execution of Jack Welch? Are you energized by the passionate dream of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or, do you gravitate toward the pragmatic execution of a Lyndon Johnson?
The Old Testament writer noted that “Without a vision, the people perish.” We need the dreamers to paint a picture of what is possible.
Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is a hallucination.” We also need leaders who can execute.
So how will your leadership legacy be defined?
Good leaders compensate for a deficiency through personal development or by surrounding themselves with talented lieutenants. Great leaders develop the ability to make the seamless switch between dreaming and doing as the situation dictates. Here are three ideas to help you balance dreaming and doing:
1. Tell yourself the truth about your strengths and preferences. Every leader has a preferred operating style based on his/her strength. Take an honest look at yours. Do you focus more on what needs to happen or how to make it happen? Honesty about strengths and weaknesses is always the first step in getting better.
2. Focus on the needs of the followers more than the strength you possess. Your success as a leader is defined by the success of your followers. There are times when they need a compelling vision to inspire greatness, and there are times to focus exclusively on execution. Your job is to understand and provide what followers need to succeed … even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.
3. Recruit and empower what you can’t develop. Have problems with the “vision thing?” Enlist others to help you craft the picture for the future. Do you have great ideas that don’t make it to completion? Turn it over to a trusted partner who excels at implementation. Then pay attention—your abilities will improve as you empower and learn from others.
A Special Note to Followers at Election Time
Elections in the U.S. are increasingly defined by passion more than pragmatism. We support candidates who share our ideals and dreams. And then, we express displeasure because others can’t or won’t work with them to reach pragmatic solutions that help everyone.
Have you noticed how rare it is that anyone asks, “Does my candidate have the ability and inclination to do the hard work of forging working relationships with others?”
This is not an indictment of one person or party. There is ample blame to share.
The result is government institutions defined more by their rhetoric than their results.
The debate of ideas leading to the selection of new leaders is the essence of democracy at work. You should support the candidate whose vision for the future most closely matches yours. And while you are at it, please consider her/his ability to work with others of differing views to reach pragmatic solutions that make things better for everyone.
We, as a society, get the leaders we deserve. We will get better leaders when we select those who can both dream and do.