4 Things No One Will Tell You About Being a Visionary CEO

May 20, 2022 | 9 Min Read

You're in the middle of another finance meeting, and you've just thought of a brand new idea to make a new target market fall in love with your company's products. Then you're trying to create a detailed employee handbook, and you come up with a way to network with a potential industry partner. 

We get it. This is the average day in the life of a Visionary CEO. The day-to-day conflict between detailed tasks and big-picture innovations can leave you exhausted and feeling like you can't achieve success with so many roles. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone; according to Forbes, "Nearly 60% of leaders reported they feel used up at the end of the workday, which is a strong indicator of burnout."

See how you, as a visionary CEO, can start managing that burnout and the duality of your roles better. Check out these four things no one tells you about being a visionary CEO — and how to resolve them so you can focus on your big-picture projects.

What Exactly Is a Visionary CEO?

Visionary CEOs have a dream for their organization. Whether you have a startup that you think is a unicorn, a product that you think is the next consumer favorite, or an array of software and services, that dream drives you. 

When you're a visionary CEO, you have big ambitions for your company and for yourself. You want to challenge the status quo, change the world or dominate your market. 

No matter what your dreams are, what separates visionary CEOs from daydreamers is the ability to make their vision a reality. But this is harder than it sounds when your head is sometimes in the clouds and you’re torn between big-picture work and day-to-day management details. Keep reading to find out the four things no one will tell you about being a visionary CEO and how to fill the gaps in your operation.

4 Things No One Will Tell You About Being a Visionary CEO

Being a Visionary CEO is challenging, but once you know about these challenges, you can get ahead of them. 

1. You'll Struggle to Prioritize

Are you an ideas person? Most CEOs are, and that can be a good thing. You need to be able to synthesize different ideas, present exciting possibilities, and keep investors, employees, and partners energized about where the business is going. But if you shift from idea to idea too quickly that's when you run into problems such as:

  • Lack of organizational focus

  • Departure from the original vision

  • Organizational whiplash

Over the course of a day, you may have 20 or 30 good ideas that could completely transform your business, solve a critical problem, or boost your revenue. But only a few of those ideas are gold. And some of them may actually be damaging if they were implemented.

It's important to filter your ideas, select the few that actually have a place in your organization, and then determine the priority level of each idea and an actionable implementation plan. While today’s ideas are exciting and more fun to focus on than implementing yesterday's ideas, it's far better for your business if you maintain focus and follow through on what’s in front of you.

Too much change and organizational whiplash can demotivate your team. When work becomes unpredictable, hard work gets abandoned in favor of shiny object syndrome, this frustrates and confuses the teams responsible for implementation and operations on a day-to-day basis. 

Instead of constantly looking for ways to innovate, stay focused on your core vision. Here's how to do that:

  1. Create core vision, mission, and direction statements. These are the North Star of your business.

  2. If you have any new ideas, filter them through these statements. Do they align with or detract from your core mission? Are they a crucial element of your mission, or is the idea a 'nice to have' idea? Some ideas should be discarded, some ideas are a good fit but not necessarily a good fit for the current moment, and the smallest handful of new ideas are gems that should be worked into your current operations.

  3. Bring your ideas to your operations counterpart — this could be your President, COO, or General Manager. Part of their crucial role is to serve as a two-way filter for your ideas, helping you sort, discard and prioritize the right ideas and initiatives. 

  4. Before implementing, get your team to provide feedback. Your sales executives may see the value in an idea but want to put it on the backburner for this quarter. Your CTO may see security vulnerabilities. Use their feedback to further filter out all but the most valuable ideas.

2. You'll Miss Details

Being a CEO means your day is all about the big picture, but the details matter, too. When you're wearing a lot of hats, you can't focus on day-to-day operational details. That's not a flaw — that's just the nature of time. Instead of trying to handle it all yourself, the solution is to delegate. You need at least one high-level operations-focused executive you can trust to focus on the daily details and keep the engine running. We call this role the Integrator COO.

If you don’t have this role currently, someone to play President, General Manager, or COO, here are two key things to consider: 

  • Define the right role:  Make sure the job description and profile for who you need fully complement your role as a Visionary CEO so you can stay in your zone of genius while ensuring daily operations are handled.

  • Hire the right person: The wrong professional, even if they're qualified, will create more dysfunction and slow down your organization. So take the time to find the right fit, set aside time for complete onboarding, and then hand over the reins so you can get the support you need, not another person to manage.

  • Intentionally onboard and delegate: Create a clear, detailed plan to onboard and empower them, giving them ownership and authority of the day-to-day. 

Once you take this step, this Integrator COO can be empowered to handle almost all details for you piece by piece, freeing you up from feeling overwhelmed or guilty that you let a ball drop. 

3. You'll Be Misunderstood

Remember: your focus is on the big picture. So when you're talking to people in charge of just a few trees about the state of the whole forest, there's going to be a disconnect. As a Visionary CEO, you should expect to be misunderstood at times. And that’s ok, even though it’s painful.

Instead of letting that feeling isolate you, use it as the impetus to become a better communicator and leader. Orient conversations with critical employees around vision and help them see it,  showing how the vision ties to their department. Use multiple modes of communication.

Despite this, sometimes, people will misunderstand you. Not everyone will share your viewpoint, and not everyone needs to see all the details the way you do. As long as you and your leadership team can agree on a course of action and follow through on it, your organization can thrive.

4. You'll Need an Operations Counterpart

All three of the previous points have focused on how you as a visionary CEO can't do everything alone. There are just too many big-picture and day-to-day tasks to manage and ideas that need to be filtered and translated into actionable plans before implementation. That's where your operations counterpart, the Integrator COO, comes into play. This role is the behind-the-scenes secret weapon you need as visionary CEO to:

  • Help scale your organization beyond your capacity

  • Embody the strengths you don’t have: organization, detail-oriented focus, methodical workflows & operational details

  • Give you time to focus on your vision and grow your business holistically.

To run a thriving company, you can't have one person playing two essential full-time roles; if you want to be a true Visionary CEO instead of a Chief Everything Officer, don’t neglect to find your COO counterpart. 

Be Prepared for These Challenges of Being a Visionary CEO

Make the shift from being a visionary CEO with too many limitations in your day to being an unleashed CEO with the support of an operations counterpart you can trust.

At Unleashed, we can help you define, find, and onboard the right partner so you can focus on your role and know the daily operations are running smoothly. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help make it happen.