Visionary Leader: Is It an Art or a Science?

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / April 11, 2022
Many visionary business leaders regard leadership as a scientific endeavor, a repeatable, proven process learned via literature and practice.

Many visionary business leaders regard leadership as a scientific endeavor, a repeatable, proven process learned via literature and practice.

Using a systematic, well-established approach as a leader produces results. Indeed, ensures a company’s safe stewardship, and allows leaders to rally employees around a common cause.

Is that correct? Let’s find out. And, let’s be clear, leadership is not showmanship.

According to Chris Duffin, this is not the case.

Duffin is a serial entrepreneur, bestselling author, and chief visionary officer of the international fitness brand Kabuki Strength.

However, according to Duffin, leadership is one of the most profound art forms in the world today. That is to say, he believes that a scientific approach prevents leaders from reaching their full potential.

Duffin founded several successful businesses. He led organizational transformations in the aerospace, high-tech, and heavy manufacturing industries. Indeed, he emerges as one of the world’s leading voices in strength training and biomechanics.

Duffin also holds the Guinness World Record for the heaviest one-rep sumo deadlift. He was the first to squat and deadlift 1,000 pounds for multiple repetitions.

Most recently he became a best-selling author with the release of his first book, The Eagle and the Dragon. Critics dub him the “Mad Scientist of Strength.”

While he values science, Duffin regards leadership as an art form. Duffin’s leadership philosophy has evolved due to his extraordinary journey. Consequently, he now sees himself as an artist, his business as a brush, and the world as a canvas. But is he right?

The Evolution of a Great Visionary Leader

Great art awakens something deep within us all, eliciting powerful emotions we were unaware we possessed. It arouses thought, builds inspiration, and inspires ecstasy. There are direct parallels between outstanding leadership and great art, according to Duffin.

Bringing a new vision to life is at the heart of leadership and art. He suggests that it could be a beautiful painting or an enchanting instrumental for artists. Yet for business leaders, it could be an organizational strategy or culture.

Bringing these visions to life requires authenticity, unbridled creativity, and dedication.

Leaders can see into the future and make their visions a reality. However, the leader is acutely aware of their internal values. Duffin advises they have the drive and entrepreneurial vision to spread their philosophies to the rest of the world through their actions. They can rally an entire organization behind them.

As a result, he contends, viewing leadership as an art form rather than a science opens up exciting possibilities for all types of leaders. We frequently see these leadership philosophies in innovative startups that aim to change the world.

However, as organizations grow, this zeal and spark are often lost, resulting in stagnation and a lack of innovation. Especially with remote workers. Therefore, the leader, according to Duffin, must resist and continue to play the proactive role.

Visionary Simon Sinek is a leading proponent of this idea. He argues that owners should recast CEOs as chief visionary officers. Indeed, their primary responsibility is of setting and delivering the company’s ultimate vision.

Duffin strongly opposes this viewpoint and advocates for a more balanced approach. He approaches effective leadership using a delicate balance of artistry and science which any CEO can master.

Yin and Yang Strike a Balance

Many of history’s most significant changes have been ushered in by organizations led by two distinct types of leaders: the relentless visionary and the laser-focused operator.

For example, the fathers of modern aviation, Orville and Wilbur Wright. Orville was the trailblazer, a forward-thinking inventor who thought and realized something no one else could. Meanwhile, Wilbur was in charge of the company, negotiating contracts and securing orders.

Apple’s early leadership – which has propelled the company to the top of the global market capitalization rankings – followed a similar pattern.

Steve Wozniak is a tenacious engineer who laid the groundwork for success. He was the ideal partner for Steve Jobs. Therefore, Jobs is a recognizable creative genius who founded numerous new technologies.

A two-pronged approach, according to Duffin, is vital to fully realize the true potential of visionary leadership. Businesses must be led jointly by a chief creative officer and a chief executive officer, he says.

However, in order to bring the future to life, we must free the visionary from the day-to-day administrative and operational responsibilities that are typically assigned to the CEO. The CVO and the CEO are like Yin and Yang: two opposing but complementary forces that work together to achieve the perfect balance.

This approach is most important at the top of an organization. That is to say, the principle of leadership as an art form applies at all levels, according to Duffin.

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