Visionary vs. Integrator: Which do you need to get “unstuck” in your business?

visionary vs. integrator idea lightbulb

Are you a business owner who feels like you’re stuck in your business instead of running your business? Then you need to understand the roles of the visionary vs. integrator!

Today, I’m going to share with you what a visionary and integrator are and how each of them fits into a successful business. This will help you lay out the exact next steps to take in your business. Make sure to stick around to the end where I’ll help you figure out which one you are.

Visionary vs. integrator: which is more important?

When it comes to successful businesses, many people tend to focus on the role of the company founder/CEO. This person is often, but not always, the visionary.

The founder/CEO role may be the splashy and spotlight-grabbing one, but in reality, a successful business needs two crucial positions: a visionary and an integrator.

Let’s explore what a visionary and integrator are, and why both are essential for running an effective business.

Alone, each has its merits. Together, these two roles form a powerful combination that can drive your business toward success.

Who came up with the visionary/integrator concept

The concept of the visionary and the integrator was first introduced by Geno Wickman and Mark C. Winters in their book, “Rocket Fuel,” published in 2015.

The book is based on Wickman’s experience as the founder of his own company. Wickman and Winters argue that every business needs both a visionary and an integrator to be successful.

The visionary is responsible for coming up with big-picture ideas and strategies, while the integrator handles turning those ideas into action and making sure that everything is running smoothly.

According to the authors, this dynamic is essential for driving a business toward success. And… I have to agree with them. I’ve seen this play out time and again in my businesses and my client’s businesses.

So many times, the struggle comes from a business owner going against their strengths and trying to play both roles — and typically failing at both. I’ve been there myself!

But what exactly do the visionary and integrator terms mean, and why are they so important for a business? Let’s take a closer look.

The Visionary

A visionary, as it relates to the concept introduced by Wickman and Winters, is someone who can see the big picture and dream up innovative ideas and strategies for the future of the business.

visionary vs. integrator idea lightbulb

In short: They are the idea person.

This person is often the driving force behind the company and can inspire and motivate others to join in the pursuit of a shared vision.

In my role supporting a visionary client, we used to joke that he was “the painter, the dreamer.” We’d even used the paint palette and artist emojis 🎨👨‍🎨 in Slack sometimes to denote where his head was at.

“Oh, you know, he loves to dream big. He’s out there in a meadow full of wildflowers with his paint smock, easel, and canvas, head full of dreams.”

We didn’t do this behind his back… he came up with the concept and laughed about it.

He knew that his solid team, led by an integrator (myself at that time), would work their butts off to make his dreams happen. He accepted and embraced that he was often difficult to understand, had trouble maintaining attention if a certain thing didn’t interest him, and was often seen by the team to be out of touch with reality. No one understood why he couldn’t seem to just “buckle down and grind it out.”

In this way, a visionary has several characteristics that set them apart from other types of leaders. They’ll hustle and grind alright — but only when it’s something they are deeply interested in. They are typically highly creative and have a strong sense of purpose and direction. They can see opportunities where others might not, and are not afraid to take risks to pursue their goals.

Summary of a visionary:

  • A visionary is someone who has a creative flair and can dream up innovative solutions to tackle problems.
  • A visionary will excel at generating new ideas and coming up with novel approaches to overcome challenges
  • A visionary will often drive the team nuts with their big-picture thinking and ideas. They’ll often think WAY outside the box when it comes to problem-solving, and are known for thinking they can do 85 things when in reality, they can probably manage around 3.

A visionary sounds great right? Very important to the company — and critical to driving the company forward.

However, a visionary’s major drawback is simple and comes back down to dreaming. While they can dream for days and come up with 1000 ideas for how to do something, they’ll almost always struggle with the details and the practicalities of turning their ideas into reality.

This is where the integrator comes in.

What is an Integrator?

An integrator, as outlined in the book Rocket Fuel, is someone who excels at turning the ideas and strategies of the visionary into action.

visionary vs. integrator planning for the quarter

In short: They get things done.

This person is responsible for making sure that the business is moving in the right direction and that all of the pieces are falling into place.

An integrator is a detail-oriented and organized person who can take the big-picture ideas of the visionary and break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. They are also able to communicate effectively with others on the team and keep an eye on everything to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Like the visionary, an integrator has some key characteristics that set them apart from other types of leaders. They are highly disciplined and have a strong focus on execution. They are also able to build and maintain strong relationships with others, which is essential for making sure that everyone is working together towards a common goal.

Summary of an integrator:

  • An integrator is someone who ensures that visions become realities. They translate ideas into plans that can be carried forward toward tangible results. They’ll do this by seeing to all the details like schedules and resources needed to complete projects.
  • An integrator is forward-thinking yet able to work within the limits of existing processes or systems. They’re able to take the visionary’s big plans and identify what they can work on now, and what will have to wait. But they make sure those items on the waiting list aren’t lost — they’ll be sure to come back to them later and fit them in.
  • An integrator can manage tasks efficiently and delegate tasks effectively. They’ll offer both critical feedback as well as support when needed. They are not afraid to be disliked or seen as “the boring one.” Their goal is results and sometimes this means creating rules, structure, and processes that both the visionary and other team members may see as dull and restricting.

The integrator’s “drawback” can be too much focus on the day-to-day operations — leaving no room to dream big, and no room to focus on the future. This leads us to our next point…

Why you need both a visionary and integrator for your business

So why do you need both a visionary and an integrator in your business? Simply put, these two roles complement each other and are both essential for driving a business toward success.

The visionary provides the inspiration and the big-picture thinking that keeps the business moving forward while the integrator ensures that these thoughts don’t just stay rattling around in the visionary’s head.

While the visionary can think outside the box and come up with new ideas, the integrator is able to ground those ideas in the realities of the business and make sure they are implemented effectively.

These roles together also balance the focus of the business in a healthy way between short-term and long-term goals… Without a visionary, a business may become too focused on day-to-day operations and lose sight of the bigger picture.

On the other hand, without an integrator, a business may become too focused on the future and fail to attend to the practicalities of running a successful operation. By having both types of leaders on the team, the business can maintain a healthy balance between short-term and long-term goals.

visionary vs. integrator scoping product

One more important note: not every member of the team needs to be a visionary or an integrator. Most people will likely have a mix of both types of skills. However, having at least one person on the team who is predominantly a visionary and one who is predominantly an integrator can be extremely beneficial.

Visionary vs. Integrator: Which one are you?

Most people will have a pretty good idea of which one they are simply by reading this post. But if you’re still unsure, the authors of Rocket Fuel have created a quiz here to help you narrow down your skills.

But once you know which one you are… the question remains? How do you find your match?

How to find your complimentary partner

The good news… you know who you need. The bad news… you’re still 50% short of the explosive combination needed to completely revolutionize your business.

Where do you find your match? I can help.

As someone who has built (and helped to build) multiple businesses, I’ve worn both hats. The visionary (in my own business) and the integrator (for my clients’ businesses).

Now, I help my clients hire and onboard their missing piece — the integrator. With personalized one on one consulting services I will help you to hire and train the perfect right-hand helper for your business. Let’s find out if we’re a good fit for each other.

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