I believe that every true leader is a visionary at heart. They see what others don’t see. They see before others may see. They see what looks impossible as being possible.

However, all visionaries are not alike. Author Dan Reiland unpacks for us three types of visionaries and encourages us to determine which one we are most like. He speaks to a church context, but his insights are applicable in business, sports, government and the family.

Originally published by Dan Reiland

You may not consider yourself a visionary, but if you are a leader, you likely are. 

Leaders see things others don’t see. 

Don’t you sometimes, or maybe often, have ideas of how the church could be better?

You may have a new idea, an innovative solution to a specific problem, or see a unique opportunity. That often becomes vision – a picture of a preferred future, a solution that makes the church better, or a spark of human potential in a leader.

Three truths about vision:

  • Vision is required to move things forward and to realize progress.
  • Vision brings energy that is required to build momentum.
  • Vision is what brings fire, flavor, and fuel to the mission (or purpose.)

And vision comes in different and complementary leadership types:

It’s a common mistake to limit visionary thinking to the top leader. It’s certainly true that they are usually the primary visionary for the church overall, but they should not be the only leader who sees what others do not see.

Visionary thinking may function at a campus level or a department, like children’s ministry or student ministry, and that vision supports the overall vision.

So please understand that this isn’t about competing visions or staff members producing “vision of the week.”

The purpose is to give freedom to dream and think as a visionary, to see what others don’t see in a way that adds value to and propels the church’s overall vision.

To see layers of vision (supporting the main vision) released in a church, it requires:

  • A healthy culture committed to the best idea, not the loudest voice.
  • A sense of teamwork that doesn’t care who gets the credit.
  • A practice of discipline to see the vision get traction through strategy and execution.

Let’s break this idea down into three groups to make it more practical.

Again, the goal is not to be a vision factory; it is to unleash the best from each leader on staff, within their gifts and set of responsibilities, to advance the overall vision and purpose.

3 types of visionaries:

When using any type indicator, no one fits perfectly or solely in one group. We just don’t fit nicely in a box! But you function mostly in one type with a lesser percentage in a second type.

1) Entrepreneurial visionary

Starts new things

The entrepreneurial visionary will often take the big challenge of starting something new. It begins with a burden for change, driven by passion and a willingness to pay the price.

They tend to see things first and be early adopters or innovators.

For example, our founding senior pastor Kevin Myers, (who planted 12Stone Church) also “saw” in his own mind, the multi-site idea before it was a movement. But with advice from other organizational visionary thinking, we waited to launch our first campus.

Important note: Not all senior pastors are entrepreneurial visionaries and are still great leaders.

Risk is embraced

Entrepreneurial visionaries are undaunted by risk. They are willing to step out and press forward into uncertainty. The vision is worth it, and others will follow.

Courageously taking a big risk is not the same as leading without thought or planning. An entrepreneurial visionary understands the cost but refuses to hesitate merely because of unanswered questions.

Needs a team to execute

We all need a team around us, but the entrepreneurial visionary is often so specialized in their gifting that they may falter or get stuck without a strong team of leaders who can help execute the vision.

If you are an entrepreneurial visionary, do you have the team you need? Is the team working well? If not, what additions or changes do you need to make?

You need at least one organizational visionary on your team who adds value to the primary vision.

2) Organizational visionary

Makes things better

The organizational visionary makes ministry better, they are builders who improve what already exists. They see the real problems before others do and see solutions that few others come up with.

An organizational visionary is undaunted by a mess and is equally motivated to take something functioning well and fine-tune it into a work of organizational art.

Of course, the challenge is that no church organization ever stays finely tuned; it’s human, organic, and therefore breaks down. However, the organizational visionary has the stamina and resilience to do it again and again.

Does that sound like you?

Integrates structure and people

An organizational visionary understands how systems work, and they are brilliant at integrating people and structure into an organization that actually achieves the desired results.

Vision is powerful, but its beauty fades quickly if it never comes to pass.

As a church coach and consultant, it’s common to see that executing the plan is a greater struggle than producing the idea. Don’t misunderstand; birthing a God-sized vision is no small endeavor, but seeing that vision “grow up” over months and years takes incredible disciplined diligence.

Needs clarity of direction

The organizational visionary will falter and likely get stuck without a clear direction. They can create a path, but their visionary thinking will be stifled if significant directional changes are frequently made.

3) People visionary

Sees human potential

The people visionary sees potential within others, often before the person sees it themself.  

People visionaries see the best in you, believe the best, and help you achieve your best.

Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you that person for others?

People visionaries have a natural intuition that enables them to see past human flaws and see the unique gifting and talent that resides within a person. As a result, they often serve as a coach to help you get there.

Development is the primary contribution.

Like the organizational visionary can see the plan and execute, the people visionary can see a person’s potential and coach them to achieve that potential.

The people visionary is undaunted by a person’s mistakes and setbacks, they understand that is part of growth. They have great faith in what God has placed within someone and strong gifts of wisdom and encouragement.

This kind of visionary thinking and leadership tends to elevate teamwork. The people visionary usually has a keen sense of the power of team members working together to achieve the organization’s goals.

Needs to focus on the overall vision

Without the focus of an overall vision, the people visionary can drift into large amounts of time invested in people but not advancing the mission.

In order to harness the talent, multiply the outcomes and amplify the impact, the people visionary needs a clear focus on the overall vision.

Three important questions:

  1. Of these three types, which is your primary visionary ability?
  2. What do you see? Are you leading your best insights forward?
  3. How do you fit into the big picture, and are all these roles on your team?