Realist vs Visionary: 8 Examples of How These Personalities Differ

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What is your personality like?

Are you someone who is more of a realist? Or, are you someone who is more of a visionary?

Are you someone who tends to focus on the practical? Or, do you want to dream big even if you might fall short?

These questions describe the fundamental differences between what are known as realist and visionary personalities.  In this article, we will talk about the differences between realist and visionary personalities with eight examples that everyone should keep in mind. 

Let’s get to it.

What Are Realists and Visionaries?

First, it is important to define what is meant by a realist vs. a visionary.

A realist is someone who prefers to live in the here and now. That is someone who is always focused on what is happening in the present moment. They tend not to think too far ahead of themselves. They would rather be realistic and occasionally be surprised in a positive way. When they set goals for themselves, they tend to set goals in the near future, focusing on what is realistically achievable.

In contrast, a visionary is someone who tends to dream big. This personality is someone who prefers to set major goals for themselves occasionally gets disappointed. A visionary is also someone who would like to change the world. Even though a visionary understand that all of their goals may not come true, they still want to try. Therefore, they tend to set grand goals that are far in the distance.

8 Differences Between a Realist and a Visionary

There are a few significant differences between realist and visionary personalities. Some of the most important differences include:

1. How They Respond Differently To Volatility

One of the first differences between a realist and a visionary is how they respond to volatility. Volatility refers to rapid changes in the order of things. If the balance is fluctuating back and forth quickly, this refers to a volatile situation. A realist and a visionary are going to respond to this situation differently. 

A realist is going to get concerned when they take a look at volatility. Volatility makes it more difficult to predict the future. Because a realist likes to understand what is coming next, and volatility makes it hard to predict this situation, they are not going to look at this situation favorably. They would probably like to restore the balance as quickly as possible. 

In contrast, a visionary is someone who is going to see an opportunity when looking at volatility. A visionary probably has a specific goal in mind that they would like to achieve. A visionary may try to bring a volatile situation back into balance; however, they may like to create a new “normal” that is more aligned with their goals. Ultimately, a realist and a visionary will react to volatility differently. 

2. They Set Their Goals Differently

As alluded to above, these two personalities are going to differ in terms of how they set their goals. For example, a visionary is going to be someone who sets large, lofty goals far in the future. To some people, these goals may seem unrealistic.

On the other hand, to the visionary, these goals refer to a vision of the future. If the visionary is unable to achieve these goals for the future, that is okay! It is better to reach for the stars, try, and fail occasionally rather than to live with regrets. That is the mindset of the visionary. 

In contrast, a realist is someone who's going to set shorter, more incremental goals. Furthermore, a realist is probably going to be someone who has a specific template that he or she will use to set those goals.

For example, a lot of realists like to use a template for SMART goals. These goals are measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. With clear guard rails in place, a realist sets himself or herself up to achieve those goals. Then, when those goals are met, a realist will set new goals for the future. Even though these goals may not be as grand as those of a visionary, a realist believes that he or she is going to achieve those goals. 

3. How They Differ in Terms of Innovation

Both the visionary and the realist are going to focus on innovation; however, they are going to approach the process of innovation very differently. For example, someone who is a realist is going to stick within the guardrails when it comes to the process of innovation. They may understand that there is a research and development team in place. They will work closely with that team in order to build incrementally on some of the existing products and services. Then, they will produce an innovative product that represents a natural progression from an existing state.

In contrast, a visionary is someone who was going to try to innovate through disruption. For example, they may try to come up with an entirely new product or service that is going to change the way people look at the world. Even though it may take longer to get something completed in this manner, a visionary understands that if his or her product is successful, it may have the potential to change the way people live their everyday lives. A visionary has a large, overarching goal for the future, and they are not afraid to disrupt the status quo through this innovative process. 

4. How They Differ in Terms of Leadership

It is entirely possible for someone to be a leader both as a realist and as a visionary; however, they do tend to lead very differently from one another. In a lot of situations, people look at a visionary as an impractical leader. They may have a leadership style that people have never seen before. Those who work in a company probably have specific expectations of their managers or supervisors. A visionary is someone who is going to lead in a new way. They may provide more autonomy to the people who work under them. They may solicit the feedback of their employees more often than other leaders. Even though this is an impractical leadership style, a visionary is going to play to his or her strengths, no matter how unique they might be.

In contrast, a real list of someone who is going to be a much more practical leader. Even though they may not step outside the box is often, they are going to use a leadership style that has been proven to work. Even if this leadership style is not the most comfortable option for them, a realist knows that that specific leadership style has been proven effective. Therefore, they are going to put this leadership style to work for them as they lead members of their team. Both of these personalities have effective leadership styles; however, they are very different. 

5. How They Use Their Emotions

Another way in which people who are visionaries and people who are realists differ has to do with their emotions. Everyone has emotions. Nobody has a robot. At the same time, these emotions are employed very differently when it comes to a realist versus a visionary. 

A realist is someone who is going to try to put all of those emotions to the side. Even though they certainly feel emotions every second of every day, they are not necessarily going to act on them all the time. Because a realist is someone who favors logic and reason above all else, they believe emotions are going to cloud the decision-making process. Therefore, they are going to do their absolute best not to act on those emotions, regardless of the situation.

In contrast, a visionary is someone who is going to embrace those emotions. They believe they are feeling those emotions for a reason. Therefore, they believe it would be a mistake to ignore them. They will use these emotions during their decision-making process because they value them. Even though they understand these emotions may not always lead to the correct answer, they believe it would be a mistake to bottle them up completely. 

6. How They Go Through the Planning Process

There are also several differences regarding how visionaries versus realists go through the planning process. A realist is someone who likes to be in control of as much as possible. Therefore, they are going to meticulously plan every single part of whatever comes next before they act.

A realist will not be comfortable moving forward until that plan has been measured out completely. Otherwise, they are afraid they will not be able to control what happens. Furthermore, a realist is not going to delegate this to somebody else unless they are forced to do so. That is because they will be forced to surrender some level of control.

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One of the biggest differences between people who are realists and people who are visionaries are their planning process.

In contrast, a visionary of someone who's comfortable delegating the planning process to other people. Furthermore, they do not believe that every single part of the plan has to be defined to the very last detail before moving forward. A visionary of someone who is much more comfortable playing something by ear.

Even though there's nothing wrong with sticking to the plan if that is the way it turns out, a visionary is much more agile, flexible, and versatile. They are okay switching up the plan if the situation dictates it. This is another one of the biggest differences between people who are realists and people who are visionaries. 

7. How They Treat New Ideas

There are also some significant differences and how these two personalities treat ideas. Someone who is a realist is someone who favors concrete ideas. They like to see something laid out specifically on paper before they move forward. A realist of someone who prefers numbers and things that can be objectively measured.

If an idea can be presented in this way, they are likely to embrace it. They want to know exactly what will happen if they decide to implement that new idea. On the other hand, a realist is not someone who is able to handle abstract ideas easily. Even though they can certainly think in the abstract, this is not something they are going to favor if given the choice.

In contrast, a visionary is someone who thinks in the abstract very easily. A visionary is okay not having everything objectively defined. Even though they understand this means that certain elements of the plan may not be in place when they decide to move forward, they are okay moving forward with some vague, abstract idea.

They believe that everything is going to work itself out if they simply move forward. A visionary also understands that Innovation does require some degree of abstract thinking. That is why they embrace abstract ideas from time to time. They believe this can make a significant difference in the world.

It is important to understand that the way a realist vs. a visionary embraces ideas is not necessarily good or bad. They are simply different.

8. How They Look at the Possibility of New Experiments

Finally, there are also significant differences and how these two personalities look at new experiments. A visionary is someone who is much more likely to embrace change. In contrast, a realist of someone who is more likely to stick to the status quo.

It is certainly possible to convince a realist to try something new. On the other hand, a realist has to have some sort of prediction regarding how that new idea is going to play out. Because a realistic someone who likes the status quo, this is someone who does not like uncertainty. If they are experimenting with something new, there's going to be some level of uncertainty. A realist wants to know that everything has been done to minimize the potential of this uncertainty before moving forward. 

In contrast, a visionary is someone who looks forward to something there. A visionary knows that if we try something new, there is a chance that it could be better than the old way. Of course, it could also be worse than the old way; however, a visionary is more willing to take this chance. A visionary may also play a role in actively experimenting, trying to find different ways of doing things. 

It is possible for both of these leadership methods to be effective. Even though visionary and realist personalities are different, they also do a great job of balancing each other out. Particularly when it comes to experimenting with new ideas, it may be possible to strike a middle ground between someone who is a realist and someone who is a visionary. 

Final Thoughts on a Realist vs Visionary

Ultimately, these are a few of the many ways that personalities differ when comparing a realist to a visionary. It is important to understand that one personality is not necessarily better than the other. They are simply different from each other. If you are aware of the type of personality you have, you will better understand yourself as you are planning for the future.

Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and dreaming big.

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Realist vs Visionary: 8 Examples of How These Personalities Differ