When I begin working with leaders and the conversation turns to casting a vision, I’ll ask them a question early on in our journey: “What kind of leader are you?” If I had money every time the response was some form of “I’m a visionary”, then I’d retire on my very own tropical island.
The follow-up question I ask is more pivotal, though. “What kind of visionary?” That normally stumps people. There are a number of key traits that shape what visionaries are and function. We understand visionaries to be those who sees what could be.
But even knowing that, we still need to package what a visionary is. That can lead many to have stereotypical ideas in their minds of what a visionary is, does, and looks like. Perhaps we picture a leader casting the vision and visualise something maybe we’re not – a type A extroverted stage-speakers who ooze charisma behind a microphone and paint inspiration pictures with our impromptu speeches.
Two things can happen in our minds with that stereotype. Sometimes we shrink back, because we know we can’t fit that mould. Or we step up and overcompensate, trying to turn ourselves into that caricature. But what if I told you there is a third option that is healthier than overcompensation or retreat? One that embraces the importance of vision without denying how God has made us?
What if I told you that successfully casting the vision doesn’t start with a list of practices and techniques. Sure, communication is important. Clarity is. Handling expectation, objection and caution. Sharing some kind of practical strategy. But they aren’t the first steps. Many people are looking for tips and pointers for successfully casting a vision. But that misses the point because all vision casting is done by different kinds of visionaries. So our method has to line up with our makeup. We have to work within our wiring to successfully maximise how we go about casting a vision.
What if I said to you that there is more than one kind of visionary? And if I’m right, then we firstly need to know what kind of visionary we are.
By my counting, there are at least eight kinds of visionary leaders. So which one are you? If you know it, you’ll know how best you understand vision yourself, and therefore how best to cast the vision to others: Are you:
- The innovative and imaginative Ideator. These are the proactive visionaries and are expressive, forward-thinking and imaginative. Ideators generate innovative, purposeful and useful ideas, and gravitate towards new concepts and creative thinking. They are intrigued by challenging hypotheticals and can come with ingenious solutions.
- The insightful and observant Theorist. Reflective visionaries, theorists are insightful, reflective, and knowledgeable. They formulate theories and can understand the principles and mechanics of things quickly. Observant and imaginative, they can develop complex ideas.
- The Idealistic and cause-driven Idealist. The relational visionaries. Idealists are empathic, inclusive and accepting of others. They have big dreams to see the world change, as well as great people skills to get others involved. They tend to care about issues that affect people and even society at large and want to make the world a better place.
- The perceptive and insightful Rationalist. Purposeful visionaries, Rationalists are logical, insightful and perceptive, and use assessment and analysis to solve problems or determine the best courses of action. Strong critical thinkers, Rationalists question and challenge ideas they aren’t convinced by.
- The strategic and resourceful Developer. Methodical visionaries, Developers are industrious, organised and perceptive. Innovative and resourceful, they carry big plans and ideas and are intentional in strategically pursuing their goals. They blend creativity and diligence to develop novel yet productive results.
- The curious and imaginative Dreamer. Adaptable visionaries who are curious and imaginative. Dreamers continually generate creative ideas and possibilities. Unconventional, nonconforming and comfortable with vagueness or a lack of details, they enjoy novelty and variety.
- The inventive and enterprising Responder. Confident visionaries who are are enterprising, sharp-minded and inventive. They are creative and insightful and utilise their observations and thoughts by thinking about them, before responding with inspired ideas or actions.
- The creative and perceptive Imagineer. Sensitive visionaries who are imaginative, observant and perceptive. Imagineers are well attuned to emotions and feelings and appreciate unusual or beautiful experiences. This creativity means they have powerfully active imaginations which fuel their vision.
Do you recognise yourself in any of those descriptions? Perhaps you resonate strongly with one or two of them. Maybe more are applicable. We are all blends of traits, anyway – boxes just limit us. What if you don’t recognise yourself in any of those profiles? Perhaps you aren’t a visionary leader after all – perhaps you are strong in pragmatic and practical leading. That’s not a lesser form of leadership – things only get done by pragmatist types!
The reality is that to discover our visionary style, we need to discover our leadership style. I’ve helped numerous leaders do just that, which has unlocked new levels of confidence in them as they have learnt their strengths, and how their strengths work together. My Leadership Leanings tool can do just that for you. If you are interested in finding out more, you click this link HERE.