More than 50 percent of the CEOs who responded to this year's Inc. 500 CEO Survey identified their leadership style as "Creative Builders,"—a leadership style defined by visionaries who are happiest at the start of new projects. That's great—it puts you in the same category as Steve Jobs, one of the most heralded fast-growth leaders. But there is a specific challenge with this type of leadership that can cause big problems. I'm referring to the tendency some visionary CEOs have of thinking out loud in front of employees; a sort of personal brainstorming session that may be helpful to the CEO, but confuses everyone else in the room.
I call it "finger painting" because the thoughts and ideas are fluid and not completely formed, like a child's finger-painting picture. The confusion arises when these CEOs are working through scenarios that may sound like policy to employees but, in actuality, they are not even a plan yet.
Here are a few common communication blunders visionary CEOs often make:
The unintended outcomes of these impromptu brainstorming sessions include false-steps as employees try to respond to what they believe is direction. Even worse, some employees will simply become inert as they decide that doing nothing and waiting for more clarification is the best policy. Meanwhile, CEOs feel like their people lack the vision, initiative, understanding and courage to tackle their great endeavor. In truth, while the visionary may see it clearly, everyone else is just trying to catch up to the most recent version.
What should CEOs do?
If your leadership style is that of a creative innovator, be careful not to finger paint in public without warning your employees—you won't like the final picture.