Realist Vs Visionary (The difference and similarities)

In this brief guide, we will discuss the distinctions between realist vs visionary, as well as other concepts related to the two types.

Realist Vs Visionary: The difference

The answer to realist vs visionary lies in the way an individual approaches challenges in life and makes sense of the information they receive from the environment.

A realist might approach things in a rational and logical way, whereas a visionary might be more creative and imaginative in nature.

To understand the distinction of realist vs visionary, one needs to take into account whether the person works in a methodical way, making plans, figuring things out as they go; or if they work more impulsively, going along with the flow, thinking more of a big picture and going ahead with things in a more independent fashion.

Realists chase the real-life challenges more often, whereas visionaries might chase concepts and dreams.

What is a Realist?

To understand what realist vs visionary means, one first needs to understand what each term means.

A realist is someone who tends to rely more heavily on concrete inputs and thinks more in a practical, logic-driven, and objective manner. 

A realist might be prone to judging an incident as it happens, and seeing a challenge as it presents itself, without changing the aspects of it at all or imagining what it might be. 

When a realist recounts an episode to another person, that description is likely to be free of emotional impacts and will contain more details and facts rather than what is elicited by the event, and it will be clearly described in their own words. 

The realist might always be focused on physical existence or the physical aspects of something, and they are not going to focus on what might be or what the abstract aspects of something might be.

The realist might find themselves perfectly at home in a situation that deals in cold hard facts and where they might focus on getting things done rather than a place where they need to imagine or create.

Here are some other traits one might find in a realist:

  • Prefers independence and loathes being put in positions of no control
  • Seeks security and stability
  • Prefers to rely on reliable information
  • Cares more about and is better at working on practical issues
  • Cautious about planning and execution
  • May choose fact and logic over emotions and feelings

A realist may sometimes be described as perhaps too cold or too rigid, but the truth is that these individuals just seek the security of the dealing with the provable and rational, rather than keeping their heads in the cloud and envisioning things that might be.

The realist makes for a good manager and a good executor, and they might get things done with efficiency, while the other people can make the creative inputs and put forth novel and radical ideas.

What is a Visionary?

The second half of the realist vs visionary debate, which is the visionary, is someone that makes the world progress with their brilliant ideas and creative concepts.

The big inventions in history and the radical changes that happen are all happening because of the visionaries, be it computers or phones or the internet; it has all been possible because a visionary who had been called crazy by most that knew them, continued working at their ideas till they became reality.

Visionaries are people with far-sighted vision and are able to find innovative paths to reaching those visions. 

A visionary may be more idea-driven, motivating, and able to implement their strategies with accuracy after having come up with the idea, and therefore these people tend to be quite unique and imaginative. 

Visionaries also tend to have the capability of engaging in debate, which is another characteristic that makes them good communicators and helps them in sharing their vision with others.

A visionary may also show rather high emotional intelligence which in turn allows them to make future-focused decisions, especially in case of a crisis related to their vision. 

Some of the core features of a visionary are:

  • Able to keep up with and relate to contemporary trends
  • Like to be in strategic positions that allow them to make use of their vision
  • Good at dealing with change
  • Able to bring about innovation
  • Can motivate others very well
  • Communicates excellently
  • Makes for a good leader

While visionary individuals can make great things happen with their imagination and creativity, they may also have a tendency to take risks, which might bring adverse results and complicated scenarios. 

Being a visionary may be challenging if the person completely lacks clarity and preciseness of a basic subject, and may find that their progress keeps getting hindered. 

In such cases, the visionary may find themselves getting less enthusiastic about the project and it might become hard to bring them out of their despair.

“You see yourself as more of a realist or a visionary”

The above statement is a question on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and it tends to trip up a lot of people because many consider themselves to be a balance of both.

There are many people in the world and it is not possible to say that they fall into one of the two main types, because that is just too arbitrary in terms of classification.

Most people may have traits of both realist and visionary and may find that they are able to behave accordingly in various situations, as and when it is needed.

If you are in a situation where you need to know where you fall in the realist vs visionary debate, you can consider a number of things to make a decision.

Many people interpret the above statement as “You see yourself as someone willing to experiment with innovative methods, (visionary) rather than conforming to effective existing ones(realist)”, so that is a question you may ask yourself.

You might also try to look at your thinking process, and if you feel that you make stronger implications towards the future and do more prospecting than planning, or more wondering or imagining than practical and rational thinking through a list of possible long term goals, you may be a visionary rather than a realist.

If you find yourself thinking, “There is no point in pondering the future until we get our present in order – lowering pollution rate, optimizing logistics, and monitoring global markets is what we really need to concentrate on”, you might be a realist.

Examples of realist vs visionary

Examples of realists vs visionaries are many, as extreme types of both are great for the society as they make for great inventors as well as leaders. 

Some great examples of Visionaries are:

  • Henry Ford
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Bill gates
  • Fidel Castro
  • Larry Page
  • Elon Musk
  • Walt Disney
  • Steve Jobs

On the other hand, the list of Realists is also great:

  • Sigmund Freud
  • Franz Kafka
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • J.K Rowling
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Henry Kissinger
  • Vladimir Putin

Realists Vs Idealists

On a general basis, the Realist vs idealist debate may be settled in a similar way as realist vs visionary, that is, looking at how each type approaches challenges, how they tackle new information, and how they figure out solutions to problems or come up with life plans and execute strategy.

While a realist might try to focus on plans and goals and be more involved in using facts and figures, and try to keep themselves to the mere factual basis of the problem, an idealist might try to consider wider pictures and may let their emotions intervene, and they may often take the more optimistic approach to things, hoping that the situation would resolve itself and asking for assistance if it doesn’t.

However, in foreign policy, Realist vs idealist means something else entirely.

In foreign policy, there are two major approaches to solving problems and approaching conflict, Realist and Idealist.

According to the American diplomacy website: “First, a “realist” foreign policy places national interests and security above ideology, ethics and morality. The second or “idealist” school posits that foreign policy must reflect the ethical, moral and philosophical values of the country.”

This website explores in depth the use of both realism and idealism in the American foreign policy, and says the following on both:

“Under Woodrow Wilson, “Idealist” foreign policy did not accomplish what it was designed to do which was to eliminate wars in Europe after WWI. As a result, there have been modifications, which have approached the problem by creating international mechanisms like NATO, the UN, and GATT. That seems to be working a bit better as we have not had a third world war in Europe.”

“During that period we have vacillated between a “realist” foreign policy that purports to reflect our national interests and an “idealist” policy that purports to reflect our higher values. Changes in administrations, and this policy, have resulted in a practical, observable ambivalence.”

“The success of any country’s foreign policy lies at least partly in its consistency and in the ability of other nations to “read” that policy on a long-term basis. In that regard, an ambivalent policy is absolutely the hardest to read and deal with.”

As one might see from the excerpts above, the excess of neither realism nor idealism works in complicated situations, and sometimes the problem calls for a joint sort of effort that takes into account both perspectives.


In this brief guide, we discussed the distinctions between realist vs visionary, as well as other concepts related to the two types. Please reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Realist Vs Visionary

What does it mean to be a visionary?

To be a visionary means to be someone with foresight, with the ability to envision the future and prepare for it accordingly.

A visionary may also mean someone who has amazing creativity and imaginativeness and is able to invent great ideas and concepts, like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney.

What does it mean to be a realist?

To be a realist means to be a person who is aware of and accepts the physical universe, or someone who may be called a pragmatist.

A realist may also be someone an artist or writer who seeks to represent the familiar or typical in real life rather than an idealized, or romantic interpretation.

What’s the difference between realest and realist?

The difference between Realest and realist is that realest is not a correct word in terms of grammar usage, and if it is typed in, the device will likely correct it to realist.

Is it good to be a realist?

Yes, it can be good to be a realist, as realists usually focus on the real-world problems as and when they present themselves instead of trying to come up with creative and imaginative solutions to challenges.

Being a realist may also mean that you are well organized and prepared which may stimulate your confidence a fair bit.


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