12 Ways Leaders Bridge Vision And Realism

One of the biggest barriers I have found in organisations when developing vision and strategy has been the lack of understanding about different ways people take in and process information.  When this isn't recognised, nor addressed in the right way, there ends up a mismatch of buy-in right from the intial development phase.  I remember an acquaintence some years ago telling me she was totally frustrated about all of these meetings her boss and some colleagues were holding about the future when the day to day work was stacking up and no-one thought it was a priority.  I have seen this dynamic hundreds of times.   Once you understand how people tick, it is like a magic wand has been waved because then everything becomes clear.  This weeks article is about bridging the gap between creating a vision and living in present day reality. 

I write a lot about leadership  and how leaders can choose to see things from another perspective.  One of my inspirations is Carl Jung, especially his work on archetypes and dream analysis.  I see patterns and connections all around me, and if you know anything about Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) , you will understand it’s because I have a preference for intuition.

Being intuitive means I prefer using my imagination to find meaning.  I am fairly future focused, and a “towards” motivated person.   To those who don’t really know me, I can sound idealistic, looking towards a “happy ever after” future.   Self-awareness, however, keeps my feet on the ground mostly, although I do actually believe we can influence our future by what we think, feel and believe in the present, but that's another story.

The other part of the MBTI Dichotomy around how we see things is the “sensing” type.  This type of person prefers to see the world through their 5 senses, and so can be fairly factual about what they are seeing.  They are “realistic” and prefer facts, and a pragmatic approach.  Sensors like to live in the present, and generally call upon past experiences to inform their decision making.

Intuition and Sensing are not labels

The problem with MBTI is that some people believe the word “type” traps people into one of the two parts of the dichotomy, and it becomes a label.  The truth is of course that we all take in information through our senses and our intuition in different quantities and in a variety of situations.  We just can’t be taking in information from both sources at once.  One day we could be realistic and down to earth, and the other might be finding joy in our dreams and vision.  Our type is determined by how we feel most comfortable, taking in information.

Idealism and Realism are necessary for real growth

I remember talking to a friend about my plans and aspirations, and how I wanted to change the world and make a real difference.  I rambled on for about 15 minutes, enthused by my theme and feeling passionate about what I wanted to do.  She listened attentively, smiling and nodding.  When I finished, before I got the last words out of my mouth she said “Lovely, but let’s get back down to earth now shall we?”

I laughed and nodded.  As you can see we are very different.   When I was younger and less experienced, I might have felt she had deliberately rained on my parade.  Older and wiser, I knew she was right.

In order to grow as leaders and effective people whether in a leadership role or not, it is healthy and right to be both idealistic and realistic.  If your preference is more prevalent either way  you might find it more difficult to get that balance right.

Leaders who get the balance right will take in information either through their own inner processes or through their team and:

  1.     Use their imagination and aspirations to develop a clear vision, and convert to understandable outcomes
  2.     Make connections; develop big picture and systems thinking to have an overview of how things will be.
  3.     Harness the power of  strategic plans as well as action plans
  4.     Assess the current situation or reality and understand where they are right now.
  5.     Bridge the gap between current and future reality with communication, plans and milestones.
  6.     Connect the past, present and future through storytelling and timelines
  7.     Work towards outcomes through believable milestones, so both realistic,  and idealistic,  can buy –in
  8.     Be tuned into and help solve day to day problems
  9.     Support and give credit and reward for  “here and now” achievements
  10.     Listen to and understand both intuitive and sensory input.
  11.     Harness appropriate change strategies
  12.     Realise they have to understand the “here and now”  to be able to turn idealistic dreams into     reality

Do you get frustrated with others because they seem to live on a cloud?  Do you get disheartened because someone can’t seem to focus on anything beyond tomorrow?

Christina has managed people for twenty seven years and led hugely successful teams. She has worked with people at all levels in various organisations to help them achieve their potential, and she has been actively involved in the learning and development field in a number of different roles.

People Discovery is a Leadership Development provider based in North East England, working globally. 

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