Do you constantly have new and creative ideas, but you're not sure how to realize them? Or the opposite - are you great at execution, but sometimes short on those out-of-the box creative ideas?
Many articles have been written about having diversity & inclusion in leadership teams. But, these diversity & inclusion perceptions are often limited to visible diversity aspects such as age, gender and race. Other less visible aspects such as a person's personality type are often overlooked but are equally if not more important to team performance. There are many different ways to look at personality types. Let's see how a visionair and an executor can complement each other.
A visionair is defined by Wikipedia as someone who can envision the future. They are often very passionate about their thoughts and ideas for that future. They will frequently come up with new ideas and love looking at the big picture. People like Steve Jobs fit this category. He envisioned the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad and created entirely new product categories with these products. The other side of the coin is that visionairs often find it difficult to stay focused for a long time or to look at all of the necessary details to bring their ideas to fruition. This is where they need help.
The executor on the other hand is someone who gets things done. The executor turns out results day after day. He is the steady force that keeps the organization going. With disciplined execution and attention for details, he drives for results. He can also be the voice of reason, challenging the feasibility of ideas and translating visions and ideas into realistic plans and executing them. On the other hand, executors can be seen as pessimists at times, always having to challenge the visionary ideas. Executors often work in the shadows, putting in the hard work without having to expect great glory or appreciation. Tim Cook has always been the executor in the shadows of Steve Jobs. Even today, now that Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple, he is still seen as an executor - focusing on Apple's growth of market share.
Every visionary needs an executor and vice versa. The combination can be a golden and unstoppable team, if done right. Unfortunately, the executors outnumber the visionaries many to one, making the find of a visionair much harder than finding an executor. If you are one of the visionairs - good for you! Time to go and find your executor to match.
Getting the match right can be difficult, as there are a few pitfalls. The visionair constantly comes up with new ideas and the executor needs to assess feasibility. Saying no to ideas should be done carefully, or it will lead to friction. The same goes for when the visionair is set to control some of the executor's operational tasks such as finance. Having a clear set of responsibilities, rules and guidelines is key to a successful cooperation and relationship.
Building that team
For years, I've looked at personality types in teams using models such as DISC. I was first introduced to this visionair/executor model by a visionary CEO in dire need of an executor to complement him. He pointed me to the book "Rocket Fuel" by Gino Wickman and Mark C Winters. Ever since reading the book, this perspective is one that I've used in addition to existing models.
When I decided to start my first company, I was clear up front that I was not going to go about this by myself. I was determined to build a strong founding team. The first person I knew I needed was a commercial star. When she joined the team, her skills were very much complementary to mine (I have little commercial marketing & sales experience). She was however an executor, just like me. We were now set with a great execution team, but no visionair. Our third co-founder was our CTO, our technical brains. Interestingly enough, he also turned out to be our visionair. In our meetings, he is the one that constantly comes up with new and out-of-the-box ideas, which has been extremely beneficial for our team. Whilst the combination is not the more common visionary CEO + executor team, this is one that works for us!
Given the prevalence of executors, most boards will have one or more of them. But for me, having gone through these experiences, a visionair is something I would look for in any board or team. If one is missing, it's certainly worthwhile looking for one.
Do you have that visionair in your team? And if not, are you missing the constant flow of new and out-of-the-box thoughts and ideas? Then this may be a great trait to look for in your next hire. Or... are you that visionair but finding it difficult to turn your constant flow of new thoughts and ideas into action and reality?