Every great leader has had an instinct for execution. He has said, in effect, “unless I can make this plan happen, it’s not going to matter.” But the selection, training and development of leaders doesn’t focus on this reality. Judging from our observations, a high proportion of those who actually rise to the top of a business organisation have made their mark – their personal ‘brand’ – as high level thinkers. They are the kind of people who get caught up in the intellectual excitement each new big idea that comes out and adopt it with enthusiasm. They are articulate conceptualisers, very good at grasping strategies and explaining them. This, they know, is what it takes to get ahead. They aren’t in the ‘how’ of getting things done; that’s for somebody else to think about. Judging a person’s intelligence is easy for people who hire and and promote others; Its harder to research a person’s track record and gauge their know how about getting things done, particularly when the performance is the result of many people working together. But the intelligent, articulate conceptualisers don’t necessarily understand how to execute. Many don’t realise what needs to be done to convert a vision into specific tasks, because their high level-thinking is too broad. They don’t follow through and get things done; the details bore them. They don’t crystallise thought or anticipate roadblocks. They don’t know how to pick people for their organisations who can execute. Their lack of engagement deprives them of sound judgement about people that comes only through practice.
– Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy from ‘Execution’