The greatest brands in the world are inexorably linked to their visionary founders or leaders. You can’t think of Apple without thinking of Steve, Facebook without Mark or Google without Larry and Sergey. These visionaries all saw something no-one else saw, dreamed bigger than anyone that came before them and created opportunities where none previously existed. Through their great vision and purpose, each of these leaders inspired thousands of employees and millions of customers with their revolutionary ideas and promise of something greater.
But vision alone never won a battle, and to paraphrase Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is just hallucination”. The reason Apple products are so user-friendly, uncluttered and beautifully designed is not due to vision alone. Why Google has not been replaced as the most dominant search engine in the world is due to more than their original mission of “Don’t be evil”. Yes, these visions and missions inspired a direction, but it was another type of leader that ensured these products became what we know today. While the world is busy recognizing the visionary artists who started these companies, it all too often overlooks the equally important role of the operator; the leader that takes that vision and makes it a reality.
Steve Jobs had Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg has Sheryl Sandberg and Google had Eric Schmidt. Each of these leaders has ensured that the vision of their companies did not amount to hallucination but execution, profit, and worldwide adoption.
At a certain point of growth, it becomes apparent in an organization that there is neither the capacity or skillset within a single leader to dream and execute. As a leader, it’s normal to feel like it’s your job to be both the visionary and the operator, but speed of growth will come from focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. As Albert Einstein so eloquently put it:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Great brands need a tree climber and a fish.
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Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.