Leadership Qualities Team effectiveness Vision

Qualities of Visionaries

Visionaries get excited when they smell that the majority is going in a direction that’s not theirs.

Recently I spent a few hours in one room with a highly visionary entrepreneur.

Frequently, I seek the company of visionary leaders because they’re a breath of fresh air in a world where target-driven managers dominate.

A visionary’s biggest asset is the belief that the world can be manufactured. Visionaries often see a new reality right before them like it’s already there.

Henri Ford saw a motorized vehicle on four wheels when other people believed that horse and carriage would never disappear.

Steve Jobs saw kids navigating a tablet with their fingers. Remember also the reactions of many that using our fingers to operate our electronic devices was an outrageous idea.

So here we are…

What I like most about those visionary leaders is that they just seem to be thinking differently.

They get excited when they smell that the majority is going in a direction that’s not theirs.

They love challenging the status quo.

They’re willing to stick their neck out, ready to have their heads chopped off.

It just hardly ever happens.

Because they ‘see’ the future before anybody else does.

My former company was the first company in continental Europe to introduce ready-made meals in the supermarket.

Consumers didn’t know the product and were reluctant. We had to dispose of hundreds of pieces weekly.

Managers were screaming to kill the project because of the losses. The leader of the company stuck with his vision and pushed through.

Today, ready-made meals are a staple in every supermarket.

Back to the meeting I attended.

Here are some of the words I witnessed during that meeting, in random order and without context.

When you read them, you understand the essence:

Get to the point.
What’s the essence?
Where do you put your energy?
Kill all loss-making projects.
Follow the money.
Be logical.
Too fat. Too many slides. Not enough action.
Adaptive, flexible, change fast.
Culture first.

Why do so many companies struggle to keep these qualities in their culture as they grow?

While I’m generalizing, visionary leaders are often not great at managing continuous growth and performance.

Vice versa, effective managers who know how to manage performance are often not the greatest visionaries.

You need both.

It’s why Steve Jobs let Tim Cook manage Apple’s operations. Today, Apple manages its growth brilliantly, but it has lost some of its visionary edges.

No leader is complete. No leader is perfect.

Therefore the biggest challenge of a visionary leader or an effective manager is to manage the imperfection.

If you’re able to build the perfect team consisting of a group of imperfect leaders who complement each other, you’re golden.


You need a high degree of self-awareness.

You need a high degree of trust.

You need a high degree of vulnerability.

You need an environment where people feel psychologically safe.

You need leaders who are curious, ask great questions, are willing to challenge the status quo, and say the things that are needed to say.

And those same leaders need to be able to put their ego to the side and not get defensive when they are challenged themselves.

Most of all, you need leaders who realize there’s more they don’t know than they do know.

Those are the perfect imperfect leaders.

And together, they make up the imperfect perfect team.

Your turn: what’s your degree of imperfection?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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