3 Signs a Visionary Leader Is Getting in the Way

cracked lightbulb | some visionary leaders get in the wayAre you a recovering Visionary? You know the type – lots of big ideas, always inventing something new, a little light on the focusing, heavy on the creating, worried about the company culture, and incredibly impatient. I’m a recovering Visionary, myself.

Visionaries can clearly see a future. Our problem is that we keep changing it, and that can get in the way of our success as leaders. It’s rooted in what I call the “Free to Be Me” syndrome of Visionary leaders.

Is Your Visionary Leadership Getting in the Way?

“Free to Be Me” Syndrome is how I describe the implicit permission Visionaries give themselves to showcase to the world their glorious, naturally-gifted selves. Symptoms I experienced as a Visionary included meetings where I did most of the talking, leadership team executives who only approached me on my “good days,” and frequent accusations that I wasn’t a good listener. Perhaps these resonate with you.

In combating this syndrome, I’ve discovered a little bit of self-awareness can go a very long way.

Are you suffering from the Free to Be Me Syndrome? Here’s a self-diagnosis checklist – and the cures.

Symptom 1: You do all the talking

When you run meetings, you find that everyone else is sitting in silence. If you’re frustrated by your team’s lack of participation, consider how you may be contributing to their reluctance to speak up.

Antidote: Practice W.A.I.T.—Why Am I Talking? A flow-of-consciousness sprinkled with a few sparkling insights does not qualify as high-impact communication. Make sure you think before speaking, practice that long-neglected executive gift of brevity, and give folks time to digest your thoughts. Less is more.

Symptom 2: Your team does a “weather report” on your emotional mood

Before addressing tough issues with you, your team will circle the office assessing your emotional state – they’ll say things like, “it’s not a good day to approach the boss” or, “I’ll wait until he’s in a better mood.”

Antidote: As a leader, you don’t have the luxury of “spilling” your emotions. Consciously manage your emotional wake. Just like an ocean liner leaves a frothy wake in its past, you as a leader leave an emotional wake after each conversation. What do you want it to be? Positive and challenging, or pessimistic and demotivating? You choose.

Symptom 3: There are frequent gripes that you’re not listening

Your team members feel like they aren’t being heard, and they have let you know it’s a problem.

Antidote: Listen until it hurts – and it will. The true test of listening is whether you’ve learned something from it. At the end of each conversation, ask yourself, “What new thing did I just learn?” If you can’t name anything, try harder. It’s there.

A helpful practice is to start asking great questions. In doing so, you’ll uncover how brilliant your leadership team can be – and, as a by-product, you’ll get undreamed-of commitment and collaboration.

Work on Being a Great Leader, and You’ll Reap the Rewards

Remember, dear Visionaries, as the senior-most leader, it always comes back to you. My most important advice for leaders is this: Work on being your very best, and others will amaze you with their very best. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Next Steps


This article originally appeared on the Positive Traction blog on December 15, 2016.

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