Being a visionary is not enough

Paul Boag

The tech sector likes to venerate the visionary. But vision is nothing, without an obsessional attention to detail.

The tech sector loves it’s super stars. From Steve Jobs to the founder of the latest hot startup, we love to hail our leaders as visionaries. People who can see the ‘big picture’ and ride the wave of emerging trends.

I have talked about the importance of these kinds of leaders within organisations. People willing to challenge the status quo. Mavericks who will forge a new path for a company. A path that leads to a bright new digital future.

But, left unchecked the visionary or maverick can cause chaos in their wake. They tend to be so focused on the big picture that they gloss over the details. They fail to consider the nuances of a situation. They miss crucial details that will undermine their vision. They change for changes sake.

That is why I am not the managing director of Headscape. That is why instead Chris Scott runs the company.

Chris Scott has the kind of analytical mind that you want running a company.
Chris Scott has the kind of analytical mind that you want running a company.

Chris is a perfectionist. Things have to stand up to scrutiny. He is also pessimistic, never presuming things will just work out okay.

He has a doctorate in Physics and that analytical thinking is a part of his DNA. He challenges ideas, probing them for weaknesses. He is always seeking out the flaw that will come back and bite us later down the line.

He is also obsessed with detail. Everything has to be right. Everything has to be in place. This is the kind of guy that you want overseeing your project. If Chris is in control then nothing will be missed, no nuance overlooked.

Just sometimes the visionary and the perfectionist comes together in a single person. Take for example Steve Jobs. People focus on his visionary character, but he was also obsessed with the details too.

Steve Jobs pushed one of his developers to improve the boot speed of the mac. He argued that if you could shave 10 seconds off the boot time and they then sold 5 million macs this would equate to several lifetimes over a single year. In his mind he would be saving lives.

That is the kind of mind Chris Scott has and its a privilege to work with him. While I am the big picture guy, he is the perfectionist. He holds me back. But not in a bad way. He challenges my ideas, pushes me to flesh them out and helps me make them water tight.

If you are a big picture person do not resent your details obsessed colleagues. Don’t lament their pessimism. Instead recognise that like Chris they are exactly the kind of people you want at your company.