How to Transition from Visionary to Leader

By Eric Paley
Reviewed by Jean Darling, PT, LAT

Many of us in the private practice physical therapy world have been visionaries at some point. This ability has helped propel us to where we are today in our practices and in life. However, leading others down your path involves more than just having good ideas. As Eric Paley writes, “Vision is the license to play the startup game and the base ingredient for being a leader. The challenge you face now isn’t easy—you have to lead.”

This is not an easy transition. How does a founder make the leap from visionary to leader? Paley recognizes three key points to make traveling down this path a little less rocky. Begin by building trust with talented people. A big mistake is to avoid hiring staff with more experience and prior success for fear that their talents might undermine your success as a leader. To build your company and enhance areas of weakness, you need to attract expertise—individuals who will help to grow your business and be excited by your leadership.

Second, determine what is important in the grand scheme of things. Most startups begin with scarce resources, and these resources need to be focused in just a few areas. Narrow down your ideas and determine where you will get the most bang for your buck. Have a plan, outline goals, and follow through on priorities that you and your team have set into action. “Being a leader means focusing your team on the key priorities. Great leaders build credibility with their team by executing their plan effectively and demonstrating it was the right plan,” asserts Paley.

Third, while you do not have to share every last detail of your business operations, transparency (up to a point) will earn you trust. And while a startup is your “baby,” remember that your team may not share the same enthusiasm. Your visionary side may be left frustrated by the speed at which your vision is becoming a reality. “Being a leader means you may need to dampen the volatility your team may be feeling while being honest and transparent,” writes Paley. “Vision is the reason your company was born, but leadership will be the reason it thrives.”

Practice Bottomline

Having a grand vision is a great way to start up a new business, but the true success of a business lies in leadership capabilities. Skilled leadership will turn a mediocre enterprise into a thriving business.


Jean Darling, PT, LAT, is an Impact editorial board member and co-owner and vice president of Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with 6 locations in Wisconsin. She can be reached at

This article appeared in the 2014 online publication. It can be found at

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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