CEO, President, Big Cheese, Boss, Director, Captain, Chief… There are well over a hundred terms, but basically only two types of leaders.
Let me describe for you the two basic types of business leaders and the variations thereof: first is the Visionary. The Visionary, as the name implies, has the ability to envision the future. He or she is an ideator and comes up with an endless stream of new products or services along with an endless list of changes to whatever exists today. Typically, the Visionary juggles a dozen or more ideas simultaneously and gets very excited about the latest one.
Visionaries are passionate people, often, but not always extroverted and tend to be emotional over their ideas. They are creative and most times they are the founders of their respective organizations. Some can talk for hours about their concepts seeking support and feedback for improvement, but mostly their mission is to proselytize. For some, there is little concern about “people” because they are idea/ product centric. They focus on moving forward and people can get in the way.
While Visionaries burn with intense heat, their fires often go out as quickly as they started… particularly when they fall in love with a new mistress. Visionaries get bored easily! They are also fantastic problem solvers who love to solve business puzzles. Many are excellent with starting and maintaining “big” relationships in the business.
The second type of business leader is the executor or Integrator whose mission is to make sure the entire leadership team works harmoniously in executing the business plan. Gino Wickman, creator of the Entrepreneurial Operating System, in his most excellent book Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business contrasts the Integrator and the Visionary. From his experience, about half of the companies he works with have both a Visionary and an Integrator, while the other half has a single individual working both roles.
Integrators are detail conscious and systems oriented. They live for organizational clarity and value discipline, accountability and team unity. They instinctively know “who” is to be doing “what” in their organizations. They keep a close eye on the scorecard and can solve operational problems quickly and effectively while Visionaries often don’t see the problem till it is too late or struggle to bring the right people together to solve it. Integrators are the “tie-breakers” in the business.
Now, let me admit that I may be oversimplifying with my descriptions. All leaders have some measure of the two “types” I have described. In fact, it is not unusual to find a leader who demonstrates many of the characteristics I have described (particularly in entrepreneurial companies) but with scrutiny, you will see that they predominantly lean in one direction or the other. In fact, if you observe behavior under stress, their underlying drives and motivations distinguish themselves from one another.
While I am using the terms Visionary and Integrator to create a distinction, it is important to note that these two types of leaders have much in common. From a behavioral perspective, both are dominant, assertive individuals. They are problem solvers who often speak in the “I.” “I know how to solve that.” “Your ideas are good, but I believe mine offers the best solution.” These leaders are confident and independent and they are sure of the value of their opinions, decisions and ideas. They are competitive and determined to do more and do it better than others.
Another characteristic they share is their sense of urgency (and yes, not all leaders exhibit this trait- many are very stable and intensely focused, working on one thing and only one thing at a time). Most, need to get things done now and will drive themselves and others to do exactly that. Strong leaders are normally excellent at multitasking… and the demands of their jobs often require this behavior. You will find that some of these leaders are extremely tense and driven to release that tension in action. Some will be intolerant of delays. I am sure you know leaders that are just like this and in fact you may be one!
So the Big Cheese basically comes in two forms: hard cheese or soft. But there are an infinite number of varieties and flavors based on the unique personalities, needs and underlying drives. Knowing and understanding the distinctions of the two main types can be invaluable to you. An organization needs different types of leaders and of course it needs a great diversity in its work force as well, but the focus here is on leadership.
In a separate article, a friend of mine and fellow EOS Implementer- Ed Callahan wrote:
“Every company needs a great Integrator.” He went on to say, “In some companies, both roles exist in a single person; although he/she is probably more comfortable in one of those seats (roles) than the other. Steve Jobs for much of his 2nd coming at Apple was both Visionary and Integrator. To the extent that the leader of the company is almost completely a Visionary, then that company needs an Integrator.”
Here is a list of Visionary/Integrator pairs that come to mind,-
• Steve Jobs and Tim Cook (As CEO now, Cook probably needs to find a Visionary partner)
• Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
• Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger
• Jack Welch and his wife Susie
If you are a Visionary who recognizes that he is not a strong Integrator then you need to find one and keep him or her by your side. Most importantly, you need to understand their contribution and how different his or her thinking may be from yours. And if you are an Integrator without a Visionary, find one in an outside advisor or bring one in to join your organization. Remember, the Cheese Stands alone but the Big Cheese has choices! Cheddar anyone?