Some people spend all of their time in the clouds, thinking big thoughts, dreaming big dreams. They’ve got a vision for something and they can (often eloquently) speak to that vision and why it should be a reality. They’re “big thinkers.” Some people are completely the opposite – so detailed-oriented that they have to inspect everything, control everything, and make every decision from the most important to the totally mundane. Let’s call them “perfectionists.”
Most people are in the middle.
I think startup founders need the ability to instantly and constantly move between the two extremes. The middle isn’t good enough. Neither is remaining with one of the extremes, because you’ll either be incapable of making things actually happen (as a visionary) or you’ll be too slow to build momentum and remain competitive (as a perfectionist.)
Startup founders need vision. I’ve called it a big, honest vision. It’s audacious and grand, but at the same time not delusional and absurd. Founders need to picture a world where their startup is insanely successful and having an impact. And they need to share that vision in a big way with their team. But without an ability to execute – without an ability to get into the dirt, identify the nitty gritty that requires attention, and fix real, every day problems – nothing gets done. You have to be a master of getting things done, efficiently, decisively and aggressively.
From a 30,000 foot view to a 3 inch view, founders need to swing back and forth at any given moment, and be capable of excelling in both worlds. They have to be able to tie the worlds together — understanding and communicating (to their team, investors, customers, partners, etc.) why making what would appear to be minor changes or decisions is part of a bigger, visionary plan, and how an audacious vision can be achieved through focused attention on details and execution.