Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Seven

Here is a video of a machine shop owner. He is a visionary leader, and in this short video he describes himself as such. Listen to his words. Everything he says is very typical of the visionary leader, and it’s quite cringe worthy (in my opinion).

I’m sure his company really does nice work. And of course, it’s his company and he can run it however he wants. Who do I think I am to criticize? Well, I just can’t help myself.

Notice how it’s primarily about him and his vision, not the work. He’s right to demand excellence from his employees, of course, but he is demanding much more than that. He wants his workers to be loyal to him personally, to such a degree that it goes beyond the shop setting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy has regular barbecues at his house for his employees where, while they eat the best hamburgers made from scratch, they are subjected to vision preaching. I would be equally unsurprised to learn that he fired some excellent machinists because they didn’t buy into his vision, while keeping on some less talented guys because they did. The kind of guys that would truly want to work for this company long term are probably equally annoying vision preachers.

A master is not interested in creating a cult (when you hear the word “culture” you’ve entered cult territory). The master cares about excellence just as much as the owner in the video, but he creates that excellence by hiring workers who are already passionate about the work itself. He will allow the individuals he hires to be individuals. Everyone is different and has unique personalities and styles. While the visionary wants to reproduce himself over and over, the master wants his people to be who they are regardless of who he is. The master will use the different individual strengths of his people, while the visionary will cut off anyone whose strengths don’t line up with his vision.

Related reading: Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters List; Baseball and Teamwork

Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Six

You’re thinking of learning to play the piano, but want to be more inspired to do so, do you mostly spend your time listening to someone speaking inspiring rhetoric to convince you to learn piano? Or, do you spend your time listening to a master pianist playing the great Beethoven sonatas?

In my previous Visionary vs. Master articles, I mentioned that one ought to be inspired by the work being done, rather than by the visionary’s rhetoric. I want to explain that in more detail here.

If you are not inspired by the work itself, you are probably pursuing the wrong kind of work. For the visionary, the work is always secondary to the vision. In fact, for the visionary, the work is the vision–declaring and promoting it. Visionaries are inspired by that work. The vision is an end in itself. Therefore, when the visionary hears his followers repeat the vision and promote it, he feels his work is done. If people do not grab hold of the vision, the visionary leader can only get frustrated and repeat his message with vexation.

For the master, it is the work that must inspire. The master will show you what is possible when and if you also master the work. If he sees you are not inspired by the work, he will not waste much time trying to convince you through enlivening or emotional speeches. What he might do is turn up the pressure which will either push you out or wake you up. The master is not upset if the work is not for you. He knows there is something else for you out there, and the sooner you discover that, the better.

Read Part Seven

Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters – Six Part Series

One of my favourite series of articles I’ve written on this blog nobody reads is my Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters series.

I’ve decided to link all six articles here for your reading enjoyment, even though I know no one is actually reading this and I am only writing to myself which is probably not very healthy mentally.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Five

dedicatedWhat do Visionaries & Masters Invest Into?

I once knew a woman who was starting up a new NGO project in S.E. Asia. When speaking of her work she said, “I’m a starter. I like to start things. Then I like to work myself out of a job. Once things are up and running, I get bored, so I hand the work over to someone else and go off and start something else.”

There are truly gifted visionaries out there who can do just what my friend described above, and the project they begin does indeed continue on under new leadership for many years. But, in my experience, more often than not, when someone says, “I’m a starter and then I’m gone…” what they’re really saying is, “I like to be around when things are new and exciting. Once the novelty wears off and things become more mundane (and difficult), I leave.”

Visionaries tend to invest into the New! and Exciting!; into a fleeting glory which quickly fades. The Visionary invests into what makes him look good in the here and now and into what the masses focus on and get excited about (and pour resources into) in the here and now.

The Master, however, invests into an undying glory which never fades, but is often hidden in dark places in the days of small things.

Visionary projects start off big, but that’s mostly an illusion. It’s like a sugar rush — lots of energy rapidly infused into a body, but then just as rapidly leaking out. There is nothing wrong with starting big, in fact it’s probably the better way to go, but is there a sustainable system ready to take over once the initial momentum dissipates?

When a Master invests into a new project, he does not think, “Okay, let’s throw a whole bunch of money at this thing, hype it up big, and add it to the list of our great accomplishments (regardless of wether it works or not).” No, a Master says, “I am investing into this project for the life of the project. I want to see this thing flourish, not just at the beginning when everyone is watching, but in the middle, and the end, after most initial investors have lost interest.”

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Read Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four