The need for pragmatism: leadership ideas vs execution

the need fo rpragmatismI was recently a participant and attendee at the TechUK Annual Dinner in London when we heard a very interesting keynote from Jacquelline de Rojas on the future trends in technology, which all that was said, I was inspired by the last section of her presentation on the need for pragmatism in technology businesses.

How many times have you been in a meeting and someone says to you, “That’s a great idea, you should take the initiative and make it a reality.” What typically happens? Most of the time – not too much.  Most great ideas remain dormant because people don’t have the confidence, resources, time and/or investment to take action. And for those who take action, most are unprepared and thus find themselves spending their valuable time and money on a dream that simply goes astray.

Converting an idea into a reality (regardless of the required investment of time and money) is never an easy task. In fact, it is extremely difficult. Whether you are an entrepreneur or corporate executive, “giving ideas life” is much like giving birth to a child. You must own the responsibility regardless of the circumstances. No one will ever understand your idea or the dynamics associated with it better than you. In this regard, you are on your own and the journey will require you to learn about yourself – more than anything else will in your career.

In some regard there are too many ideas in the technology work and not enough leaders, executing real innovation, that can truly make a difference to society, community and our everyday lives.

One of most frustrating challenges facing business leaders today is closing what is commonly known as the execution gap (or sometimes the strategy gap). The execution gap is a perceived gap between a company’s strategies and expectations and its ability to meet those goals and put ideas into action.

Due to the complexity of people, businesses, and the societal constructs in which we operate, it is more difficult than it might seem at first glance to close this gap. A survey in 2014 found that 49% of business leaders perceived a gap between strategy and execution; 64% lacked confidence in their company’s ability to narrow it.

pragmaticBusiness leaders can be split into two distinct groups in terms of their strategic thinking patterns: pragmatics or idealists.

While it’s safe to assume that most people carry some pragmatic and some idealistic traits in terms of their leadership styles and strategic thinking, it’s equally safe to assume that business leaders typically lean in one direction or the other.

Pragmatic leaders focus on the practical, “how do we get this done,” side of any task, initiative or goal.  They can erroneously be viewed as negative in their approach when in fact they simply view the entire picture (roadblocks included) to get to the end result.  It’s a linear, practical way of thinking and “doing.”

Idealist leaders focus on the visionary, big ideas.  It could be argued that they focus more on the end result than the path to get there, and they can erroneously be viewed as looking through rose-colored glasses when, in fact, they simply “see” the end goal and truly believe there is a way to get there.

Which are you — a pragmatic leader or an idealist?  Or do you think you’re one of the rare few who can maintain an internal balance between the two ways of thinking and executing?

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