Pioneers Need Settlers…

It requires pioneers to move an organization…however, sustaining that progress necessitates settlers.

Too many pioneers and an organization creates progress in pushing towards the vision, but lack the people necessary to do the work of sustaining and bringing that vision to life.

Too many settlers and an organization does great work with sustaining their current efforts, but fail to have the people necessary to make determined strides and progress forward towards the vision.

Which is why organizations need both pioneers and settlers.

Pioneers and settlers give balance to organizations.  For both are needed and necessary.  One without the other will either cause an organization to stagnate or lack the ability to sustain its efforts.  Just like we need balance in our lives, organizations need that same balance for vitality and health.

It can be viewed through the same lens as creativity and innovation…creativity brings the idea to the table, while innovation brings that idea to life and action.

Pioneers and settlers work in the same manner in organizations…pioneers bring the vision to the table, while settlers bring that vision to life and action.  Into reality.  Both necessary and needed.

As leaders, we understand that most organizations have both pioneers and settlers.  But what we fail to recognize…is that most often they neither see eye to eye or even speak the same language.

To keep an organization healthy, a leader has to be the one to bridge that gap…between the pioneers and the settlers.  When pioneers and settler lose sight of each other, it creates chasms and divides in an organization.  Without bridges and scaffolds, these divides and chasms cause dysfunctional divides…as well as frustration between the two sides.

Instead of working in tandem, they become oppositional…

Which is why a leader needs to know when to pull back on the pioneers, as well as how to construct those scaffolds and bridges that keep moving the settlers forward.  Towards the vision.  A never ending push and pull for progress.

The work of a leader is to support both the pioneers and the settlers in an organization.  Both necessary, both needed…and both with their own individual needs and supports.  Acknowledging those needs and supports is the work that keeps an organization healthy…that keeps an organization moving and progressing.

It is the work of leadership…

As a leader, you have to understand that there will always be a divide, a chasm between the vision and the reality…which is why the real work, the work that brings action and life to the vision…is the scaffolding you construct, the bridge that you build to get those you lead across that divide.

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2 thoughts on “Pioneers Need Settlers…

  1. Great post. I agree tht leaders can accept their role as “bridge builders” between different groups; pioneers and settlers.

    Could you comment on strategies a leader can use to build these bridges?

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. David, you always do such a good job at making your point in such a respectful way. I’ve heard this conversation voiced in ways, where instead of pioneers and settlers there are visionaries and old school dinosaurs: done poorly, the only result is further polarization and deeper entrenchment. I don’t think people fear change (who wouldn’t like to drive a new car) but understand that they do fear the unknown or thinking that they might lose advantage. Thanks again for reminding us how principled and artful leadership can help make everyone in our organizations feel necessary and valued.

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