"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." --Warren Bennis
This quote by Warren Bennis hits the nail squarely on the head. Some of our greatest visionaries in history have been able to translate vision into reality, but they didn’t do it alone. The reality is we weren’t made to do it alone. We were made to be in community, whether in business or in life. It’s not much fun to celebrate your achievements alone, especially when it comes to your business. To be successful in most cases, it takes two distinct types of leaders: the “Visionary” and the “Integrator”. The most successful visionaries in our history partnered with an integrator, and they all had humble beginnings. The visionary is the person that dreams big, inspires people behind a common vision; you might think of Walt Disney, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Steve Job, or Bill Gates. The integrator is the person that ensures the visionary’s dream becomes a reality by being a realist who keeps commitments, makes sure deadlines are met, and manages the resources. In comparison, you probably didn’t realize that Roy Disney, James Couzens, Henry Flagler, Steve Wozniak, and Paul Allen were the integrators for each of these famous visionaries. One sees the future, and the other makes it happen.
Are you a visionary? A visionary is passionate about his or her company, product, or service. They inspire, are a passionate provider, developer of new/big ideas/breakthroughs, big problem solver, engager and maintainer of big external relationships, the closer of big deals, learner, researcher, discoverer, company vision creator, and champion. If you can answer yes to the majority of these roles then you qualify as the visionary. Very few people will be able to say yes to all those roles and that’s okay.
Let’s assume you qualify as a visionary. You had the idea, saw the need, and decided to start your own business. As you started out it was easy to manage and implement your vision. It was hard work, but you didn’t mind. You rolled up your sleeves and did whatever it took to keep your business growing. As the business began to grow so did your ideas. At this point, you began to labor over which ideas you could/should implement. Your goal was to keep growing the business. Therein lies the issue - there are only so many hours in a day and you began having trouble implementing these ideas. Everyone looks to you and the overall burden is squarely on your shoulders. You started to implement ideas that were only half baked or half-implemented because you’re only one person. In response, this caused inconsistency, organizational whiplash, a dysfunctional team, and/or a lack of clear direction. If this, is you, ask yourself the following question: Who can be my integrator?
Before you can answer that you need to understand the role. An integrator’s skills are very unique, they keep everyone moving in the right direction, they are the visionaries’ ‘yin to their yang’. They have the ability to integrate the major functions of the business, but they also run the day to day of the business. The Integrator is the glue that holds the people, processes, priorities, and vision together. They are the one that makes sure everyone is in the same boat and rowing in the same direction. They embrace the role of taking the drawing on the back of the napkin from the visionary and turning the idea into reality. They are humble and okay with staying in the background. They are the support person that allows the visionary to be the face of the company while introducing new and innovative ideas into the business.
Sometimes the Integrator comes from within the company and sometimes you must hire from outside. As you begin the process of finding your integrator, I want you to keep something in mind. Throughout my career, I have always looked to surround myself with people that fill the voids of my skills and abilities. Many people may be afraid to do this for fear of showing weakness. I believe just the opposite; doing this enhances your strengths while showing others that you’re confident in your abilities and understand your shortcomings. For example, most business owners hate working with the numbers, they just want to go out and sell or create. If this is you, then make sure your integrator is someone that understands the numbers and is the voice of reason for you.
Depending on your business, the integrator may be more than one person, sometimes it takes more. One (1) visionary and two (2) integrators, aka the triangle. I’ve consulted several businesses where this was very effective, particularly when it came to making decisions for the company. Three votes mean there will always be a majority which actually reduces one-on-one confrontations and allows the voice of reason to become more prominent. Whether you have one Integrator or two, one of the most important things to remember is to define your lanes, then STAY IN YOUR LANE! You know your strengths; you’ve identified your weaknesses. You’ve surrounded yourself with people that fill your voids and you’ve empowered them to do what they do best. Now let them do it! The result will be that you get to focus on what you do best, being the visionary for your company.
I leave you with one of my favorite success stories; Walt and Roy Disney, the founders of the Disney empire. Most people are familiar with the incredible visionary mind of Walt Disney, but how many have heard of his big brother Roy? Walt was the visionary and Roy, the integrator. In Bob Thomas’ Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire, Walt is quoted saying “if it hadn’t been for my big brother, I swear I’d’ve been in jail several times for checks bouncing. I never knew what was in the bank. He kept me on the straight and narrow.”
Thomas explains, “Long before Walt produced his first movie cartoon, he looked to Roy for counsel and sympathy. As business partners, Walt was the inventive dreamer, Roy the financial wizard.” Roy was described as rejecting the publicity and fame that came with being Walt’s brother. He was also camera shy. Yet if not for Roy, would Disney (one of many animation outfits at the time) have become an empire? A very interesting question that we can tackle at a later date.
Remember, we weren’t made to do it alone
If you would like to know more about Pull the Chute, or if you would like to talk about your coaching needs, please feel free to reach out. You can email me at email@example.com or call my cell 615-572-9500, I look forward to hearing from you.