3 Types of Visionaries, Which One Are You?

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?

8 thoughts on “3 Types of Visionaries, Which One Are You?”

  1. This is so helpful! It seems like most books on vision are written by entrepreneurial visionaries. Dan, your books seem to be driven as a people visionary. Is that what drives you? I’m curious who you see as organizational visionaries. I see Nehemiah in that light. Which authors do you see reflecting each passion?

    1. Hey Ed, you are on it! And yes, I’m most naturally driven (internally motivated) as a people visionary, though my work as an XP has required a percentage of organizational vision. I’m not as natural there, but I do love how things work and passionately try to keep them simple. You can tell the people visionary comes first because I tend to see people before structure rather than structure before people. (The org visionary sees the opposite) Neither is right or wrong, but greatly effects how you lead. How do you see yourself fitting in to these three?

      About your author question… great question by the way. I’d need to think about that! Never connected it to authors… Hmmm.

  2. Very solid information. We have our quarterly board meeting this week. I’m going to teach from this (if you don’t mind 🙂 ). Our ministry is 15 yrs young, we are entering a Phase III of the vision, and it’s time for a renewed focus and energy.
    Steve Finn
    Chestnut Mountain Ranch

  3. I’d be honored for you to teach from it! And you are on one of the practical applications! Keep vision, movement, progress… momentum alive! One guy, one gal can’t do all that for decades!!

  4. Nice work, Dan. It seems that entrepreneurial visionaries get the most “press” and write most the most “vision” books. Pastor Nelson Searcy, and his writing on “church systems” is one example of “organizational visionary”. Of the options you listed, most people would say I am an “organizational visionary” albeit far less famous.

    I recognize church leaders need to be part of a team. However, small churches are unlikely to be able to afford three staff members each with a different primary “vision” gift. My question is, how might one develop “people visionary” potential?

    When I have “seen” gifts in others and suggested ways they could demonstrate such gifts, it has been received well at times, but often met with a shrug. I have “great faith in what God has placed within” the people of my church. I would like to encourage them well.

    1. Andy,

      You are right, smaller churches don’t usually have all three on staff. However, they most often have do have all three when you include their top high capacity volunteer leaders. Assuming the SP is one of the three, the need is only two high cap vol leaders!!

      People visionary… probably more than we can cover here, but 1. Well developed coaching skills 2. High faith and belief in people 3. Encourager by nature 4. A consistently positive attitude 5. Some level of personal “success” (competence, credibility)
      Kind of a “spiritual talent scout”

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