Editor’s note: Donald Thompson, a veteran entrepreneur and investor, writes an exclusive column for WRAL TechWire about executive leadership as well as equality, diversity and inclusion. His columns appear on Wednesdays.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Being a thought leader in any industry requires a continued sharpening of knowledge and building of self-awareness. In short, your business is only as effective as your foundation of leadership will allow. My own organization, The Diversity Movement, is not immune to those building blocks of growth. As CEO, I’m constantly thinking about how my own leadership style can and should propel my organization forward.

 Last month, I wrote a piece on this site about understanding and developing your own personal leadership style. One of the key takeaways, from my perspective, is that we show our strength when we delegate responsibilities to other leaders who counterbalance and stabilize our own natural leadership styles and strengths. Put simply, to create the strongest possible leadership team, it’s important to surround yourself with other people who balance your skill sets and think differently than you do.

Photo courtesy of Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson

 This principle is just one of the reasons why I recently sought additional support in helping The Diversity Movement become the best we could be as a collective organization, specifically by implementing the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) from the Traction library by Gino Wickman. If you’re growing a business, let me say: we have been using the system for almost a year, and it has made a tremendous positive impact in helping our team to be more effective, focused and efficient.

 I am intrigued by the sheer simplicity of the model. With a trademark toolbox and process, EOS professes to be a “people operating system” that harnesses the power of human capabilities through simple principles. ​​So far, it’s working, and I’m convinced that it can be a tremendous benefit to startups and small- to mid-sized businesses that are seeking to grow and/or become more efficient in operations and management.

While working within the model and since reading Traction, I’ve honed in on the unique intersection of two specific roles: the visionary and the integrator. The Entrepreneurial Operating System speaks to the idea that both roles are essential to the success of any organization. Integrators “maintain business harmony” by managing issues both big and small, frequently serving as the connective tissue between marketing, operations and finance functions of the business. And visionaries “drive creative thought and innovation” by solving big-picture problems, championing and shaping company culture and providing creative insight. A successful, collaborative interplay between these two players within the leadership team of an organization leads to smooth operations and a winning formula. 

I already know I’m more of a visionary than an integrator, but implementing EOS helped me see the need for a leader who would balance my own dreamer tendencies and take what we’ve already found to be valuable to help us to evolve and grow even more. That’s part of the reason we recently brought on chief operating officer Phil Kowalcyk, someone I believe is an integrator to his core. 

If you’re also a visionary – someone who loves big ideas, embodies the culture of the company and has a passion for discovery – find yourself an integrator for greatest success. And if you know you’re an integrator – someone who operates on results and logic, is good at negotiating and prefers realism over idealism – you need a visionary or two on your board of directors or within your C-suite team, or you’re bound to inadvertently limit your own capacity for growth. 

In either case, your hiring strategy should begin by understanding your own leadership tendencies: where are your strengths, what energizes you, and where might you need balance to be more successful? You might also start by learning more about the EOS model, visionary tendencies and integrator traits. Then, build a team of leaders around you who balance and stabilize your function in the organization. 

If your business is also implementing EOS, I’d love to hear more about your experience and how you’re putting the visionary-integrator relationship to work for you. By sharing our stories and resources, we can grow stronger together. Connect with me on LinkedIn, or leave a comment in the space below.  

About the Author

Donald Thompson is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach. With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, he is a thought leader on goal achievement, influencing company culture, and driving exponential growth. He is also co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a results-oriented, data-driven strategic partner for organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Donald serves as a board member for several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. Donald’s autobiography and leadership guidebook — Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success — will be released in 2022. Connect with him on LinkedIn and at donaldthompson.com