Stanton Williams is a growth-focused president/CEO with extensive experience driving results in a fun, accountable culture. He recently acquired and became CEO of V-Rooms, a 10-year-old company that enables the secure sharing of sensitive business documents. Prior to that, he was a cofounding partner of Reach 1-2-1 Mobile, a mobile app and social media technology venture. Previously, he rose to president of SourceCorp Professional Services. Under his leadership, it vaulted from $3.9 to $14.8 million in revenue and into the nation’s largest single-source provider of federal tax saving solutions for partner accounting firms.
Mr. Williams recently shared his insights and perspective on key leadership roles within companies and how they affect staffing. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.
Q: What two types of people are most important to a company’s success?
SW: My leadership experience has taught me that organizations that grow must have key leadership strengths, and these strengths almost always consist of two strong complementary leaders. Gino Wickman, in his book Rocket Fuel, argues that organizations that see explosive growth have two key types of leaders working closely together to drive that growth – Visionaries and Integrators. I’m a huge fan of the book because it details the way my teams have driven companies to success.
Q. How would you describe each leader? What are their roles and talents?
SW: The Visionary is typically the spiritual leader of the company. These people are out front: They’re growth-driven, low on detail, highly results-oriented leaders, and often their companies’ rainmakers. They may also be called trailblazers. These individuals are idea generators who see the big picture and envision the future, wrapped up in the mentality of a hunter. Visionaries/trailblazers are their organizations’ entrepreneurial spark plugs: They’re the source of passion and inspiration. They’re the cheerleaders and champions who develop the big ideas and create the company vision. They develop the breakthroughs and solve the tough problems. Visionaries close the big deals while continually learning and researching.
The Architect, or Integrator, is the organization’s glue, holding the people, processes, systems, priorities and strategy of the company together. He or she is the visionary’s right hand and more detail-oriented. Wickman explains that, “The Integrator is a person who has the unique ability to harmoniously integrate the major functions of the business, run the organization, and manage the day-to-day issues that arise.” Architects/integrators are strong leaders and managers – decisive, good at planning and organizing, solving problems, adaptable and focused on achieving goals. They’ve also got the people skills to understand and evaluate others, so they’re effective in developing and coaching their teams, keeping them cohesive and managing conflicts. Yet, they’re also forward-looking and conceptual thinkers. Like visionaries, architects are continuous learners.
Q: Do most organizations have both?
SW: Some organizations have one of the two leaders; few have both. It’s rare to find organizations growing quickly without both because each of these strong profiles brings unique and critically important strengths to their organization. True Visionaries and Integrators each represent only 3% of the population – they’re very hard to find. Finding Visionaries and Integrators with specific industry experience may be even harder.
Q: How do they complement each other?
SW: Without an Integrator to turn a vision into reality, a Visionary is far less likely to succeed long-term and realize the company’s ultimate goals. Likewise, with no Visionary, an Integrator can’t rise to his or her full potential. When these two people share their natural talents and innate skill sets, they have the power to reach new heights for virtually any company or organization. Working together they push each other, support each other and appropriately challenge each other so that the organization grows in a way that is controlled but that is far faster than their peers.
How do Visionaries and Integrators need to interact?
SW: The Visionary and the Integrator are both very strong personalities and must be intentional about respecting each other. The Visionary tends to get the glory and the integrator tends to be in the background. The integrator is also most likely labeled as a pessimist because the Visionary believes that any and everything can be accomplished – and quickly.
Q. Can you share an example from your own experience?
SW: I was promoted to president of a professional services company in 2001. I enjoyed substantial success in my career to that point by driving sales for the company. I believed that the role of president meant that I had to assume roles that didn’t necessarily play to my strengths as a visionary, an idea generator. Our team also needed strengths in people, processes, systems and conflict management. While I worked very hard to be everything our team needed, I didn’t fool my team or myself when I worked to excel in areas that were not my strengths.
Tom had been with our company for a number of years and had shown himself to be loyal, detail-oriented, ambitious and passionate in his area. He had my respect and the respect of our team. I knew my strengths and I knew our team needed leadership that I believed Tom would provide. It was a theoretical risk but far less of a risk than not making the move to promote Tom to COO of our company.
Leaders earn a title and a role based on stepping up and assuming duties well before being anointed with the title. Tom earned his promotion by demonstrating the kinds of leadership and skills the role required – well before he was given the title. His appointment to COO set me free to drive sales and to strategize with him about other offerings we could add. It was a great working relationship that enabled our company to grow; I was the visionary and Tom was the integrator. We strengthened each other while advancing our team members’ careers.