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Daydream or Nightmare? Leading with Vision and Action in the C-Suite

Vision and Action Venn

Timeless Insight from a Powerful Proverb

I’d like to offer attribution for this nugget, but origins are uncertain. Some attribute it to Japanese wisdom, while others suggest its roots lie in the philosophies of ancient Greece or Rome. In any case, the message resonates clearly: for leaders, vision without action leads to stagnation, while action without vision fuels chaos.

“Vision without Action is a Daydream.
Action without vision is a Nightmare.”

~ Japanese Proverb

It’s a simple, easy-to-understand concept. Yet how often do we discover that either one of these critical success components is missing?

As simply shown in the Venn diagram below, leading any meaningful initiative needs both vision and action.  

Vision - Action Venn

Are You Living in a Daydream? A Nightmare? Or Getting Your Desired Results?

Vision without Action: The Daydream Trap

Leadership is about getting results.  Having a visionary leader is an important step.  But action is required to turn dreams into reality.  

Business Examples of Vision without Action

  • Steve Jobs’ original vision for Apple TV: While Jobs envisioned a revolutionary home entertainment hub, limited implementation and partnerships resulted in a lukewarm reception and missed market dominance.
  • Kodak’s early digital camera prototypes: Despite recognizing the potential of digital photography, Kodak’s leadership delayed mass production due to fear of cannibalizing their film business, ultimately allowing competitors to seize the market.
Vision without action

Action without Vision: Living a Nightmare

Just Because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD

Business examples of Visionless Actions
  • A Retail chain aggressively opening new stores without proper market analysis: Resulting in redundant locations, oversaturation, and ultimately closures.
  • Company jumping on every new technology bandwagon without a clear strategic purpose: This leads to wasted resources, fragmented efforts, and missed opportunities to build upon core strengths.
  • Over aggressive sales goals: Have repeatedly resulted in being top-line wise but bottom line foolish as less profitable opportunities reduce margins.  
action without vision

The Tag Team Approach

We’ve witnessed successful business building in the C-Suite.  Here are two quick case studies of companies that discovered powerful synergy by combining the skills of a Dreamer and a Doer.   

Consider the success stories of Microsoft and GE in the 80s.  Both companies offer success stories of a C-Suite Tag Team in the tradition of Batman and Robin or The Lone Ranger and Tonto

Microsoft's Quick Case Study of Vision and Action

Bill Gates

Vision: Bill Gates

Mr. Gates understood the future of computing and the need for Operating Systems for the new Desktop Personal computers. And foresaw the future of desktop computing.

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Action: Steve Ballmer

Mr. Ballmer led the execution for the development of Operating Systems for both the IBM PC and Radio Shack's TRS-80 Computers

GE's Quick Case Study of Vision and Action

Jack Welch

Vision: Jack Welch

"Under Welch's leadership, GE increased market value from $12 billion in 1981 to $410 billion when he retired." - Wikipedia

Larry B

Action: Larry Bossidy

GE's COO: He literally wrote the book on "Execution".

Is a Tag Team Required?

While you don’t need a dynamic duo like those that grew Microsoft and GE, you still need to avoid the traps of daydreaming with little achieved and the nightmare of working without a clear purpose and goals.

Wearing Two Hats

Your organization may not have the resources and ability to hire both a visionary, futuristic thinker and a methodical taskmaster.   You may need to wear both hats.   

If your trying to wear these two hats be aware:

  • Which hat are you most comfortable or most inclined to wear?
  • Which is least comfortable?
  • What are the potential consequences of getting too comfortable with one?
  • How will you recognize when situations require you to wear one or the other? 

Are you sensing stagnation?  Or chaos?  Choose your role, grab your hat, and lead accordingly!

dreamer doer hats2