Confessions of a Non-Visionary Leader
To achieve success as a leader, we’re told we must be “visionaries.”
Defined as “one having unusual foresight and imagination,” there are countless podcasts, books, lists and rankings that delve deep into the visionary success of some of the country’s greatest leaders — dissecting how you, too, should be just like them.
But what about those of us who are not visionaries, and who instead focus on strategy and execution? Are we precluded from leadership roles because we lack extraordinary imagination? Early in my career, I asked myself these questions when I came to the realization that I may not possess all the characteristics traditionally found in a visionary.
The good news: all is not lost. As the head of product at a high-growth healthcare technology company, I can confidently say that not all leaders need to be visionaries. Below I share three lessons I’ve learned from leading with my innate strengths rather than forcing myself to fit within the parameters of a visionary — lessons that are applicable to any role and any individual that may not fit the “traditional” mold of their job description.
These are the confessions of a non-visionary.
3 Leadership Tactics for Non-Visionaries
- Conduct a self assessment.
- Be transparent and lead with your strengths.
- Surround yourself with people who complement your skill set.
Conduct a Self Assessment
I first assessed my strengths and weaknesses by comparing myself to my peers.
I didn’t put myself down or focus too heavily on my shortcomings, but by examining others, I was able to better understand the areas in which I succeed — as well as those where I did not. Over time, I learned that while others may be more imaginative with radical ideas, I excel in determining the viability of ideas and transforming them into products that disrupt industries, delight customers and create value.
In addition to performing a peer comparison, you can also gain greater self-awareness by taking a personality quiz, listing your skills (alongside areas where you struggle) or asking trusted colleagues for their opinion.
Be Transparent and Lead With Your Strengths
I encourage all prospective employees to be transparent regarding their strengths and weaknesses. Let your interviewers know what you’ll contribute to a team. In the same way, don’t be afraid to be honest about who you are not.
During the interview process for my current role as head of product at CarePort, I was transparent about the fact that I would likely never be the person coming up with first-of-their-kind, industry-transforming ideas. I would, however, be the one to use my skill set to turn those ideas into realities — potentially in ways the visionary hadn’t imagined.
There is strength in vulnerability. In fact, most employers will appreciate your self-awareness and honesty. As much as you want to convince a potential employer that you would be successful in a role, the hiring manager also wants to ensure that you’re put in a position where you’re able to succeed. Being honest about the qualities you bring to the table — as well as areas where you may need some nurturing and support — will help both parties make the right choice for the long term.
Surround Yourself With People Who Complement Your Skill Set
To be the best version of yourself in your role, it’s critical that you intentionally surround yourself with people who offer complementary skill sets to your own. I’ve learned that in product development, a group that brings both art and science to the table are the teams that will succeed.
For example, because I am more logical, I intentionally hire individuals who are creative and imaginative — people who think outside the box. As you build your team or search for your next career opportunity within an existing team, search for individuals who present qualities complementary to yours and who can fill in the ones you may lack.
Dr. Lissy Hu, the CEO of CarePort, and I represent this balance. I’m fortunate enough to work for someone who is a true visionary leader. She sees what can be, and I then analyze and mobilize the steps needed to turn that vision into a reality.
For example, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, she recognized an opportunity for our technology to better support frontline healthcare workers during unprecedented circumstances. To address critical challenges presented by the pandemic, my team swiftly created product enhancements that fostered communication, collaboration and transparency between hospital staff and post-acute care teams to help maintain the health and safety of patients and healthcare workers.
During this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, it was critical that we had both imaginative visionaries and swift executors to nimbly respond to the crisis at hand.
Here’s my message to you: Don’t let your perceived weaknesses hold you back from pursuing your career aspirations. Through self-awareness and transparency, you can find a role perfectly suited to your skill set. There, you can meaningfully contribute to your organization’s mission.