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Visionary vs. operational

Fred Wilson wrote a great post last month about leadership. In it, he compares what he calls visionary leadership to operational leadership. Here’s a snippet:

I like to keep things simple and in my simple mind, leadership comes in two flavors, visionary leadership and operational leadership. Founders are almost always visionaries (if they aren’t, run in the opposite direction) and hired CEOs are almost always operators.

The post goes on to explain the dynamics between these two types of leadership. Vision, he argues, needs to come from the top. You need someone setting direction at a high level. Operational leadership doesn’t have to be this way, and often isn’t. You can hire for it.

In some special cases, you have leaders who are both. Another snippet:

Leaders who can provide both operational and visionary leadership are a rare but special breed. When you find one, get on their bus and stay on it for as long as you can. It will be an incredible trip.

I have seen all of this play out in the real estate development space.

There are people who are great at identifying new sites (land) and coming up with fresh and innovative ideas, but it is clear that they need an operator or two around them. There’s nothing wrong with this pairing.

Development is also a very long and slow game and you need people who can operate — deeply in the weeds — over extended periods of time. Persistence and tenacity are crucial. Patience I guess, too.

If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend you check out the rest of Fred’s post.

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