Pragmatic Idealism Is Not An Oxymoron

On the surface, it might appear that the concept of pragmatic88 idealism might be an oxymoron. However, when one considers that idealism requires a degree of pragmatism to be converted into action, the combination of these two ideas is very likely anything but an oxymoron. According to, pragmatic is defined as “concerned with practical values and results,” while idealism is defined as the “belief in or behavior according to one’s ideals.” Going one step further, then defines ideals as “conception or standard of perfection.”

Every well- intentioned, well- meaning individual is guided by his ideals. One’s image of what is perfect will guide his perception, and eventually his thought processes and action. The complication is that what might be considered perfect by one person is different than someone else’s concept of perception. If one simply strives for the ideal, without considering how to get there, there is virtually no possibility of coming close to achieving it. The ideal is something one should strive for, a goal to set – – but rarely is it completely achievable.

On the other hand, many individuals are merely pragmatists, and are willing to always settle for what is offered, without striving for the ideal. This is far more common, and far more dangerous. While the idealist may not achieve his ideals, his “dreams” might still inspire others to reach for something better. On the other hand, someone who is pragmatic without standing up for “something,” is merely acting as a “populist,” often unwilling to strive for any real improvements. Pragmatists often accept the easy way out – – the path of “least resistance.” They often use fancy reports, techno-jargon, and impressive sounding rhetoric instead of sound reasoning. All this type of pragmatist is interest in is accepting what he considers practical, but in reality is often simply the “lazy way out.”

Pragmatic idealism is standing up for one’s principles and beliefs while striving for perfection, while at the same time creating an action plan to implement the steps necessary for implementation. If one maintains his ideals and remains true to them, it is often necessary to be somewhat pragmatic. Effective individuals realize that action is meaningless if there are no ideals, as opposed to individuals who are merely pragmatic without ideals! Pragmatism causes an effective leader to come up with a step-by-step plan to assure improvements, in a real situation.

Leaders who are pragmatic idealists are generally the most effective. They are often the most driven, clearly knowing what they feel needs to be done. Pragmatic idealists are often unpopular, because the “idealists” are unwilling to “waver” while the “pragmatists” are afraid to make waves. Pragmatic idealists see things as they should be, and sometimes become frustrated by others around them that do not share their vision. A pragmatic idealist will prioritize issues, and perhaps sacrifice a less important matter for the sake of getting a more important issue implemented, but will not “settle” on the basic ideal. Pragmatic idealists are generally the most honest, believing that “doing the right thing” is more important than the popular approach. Pragmatic idealists are generally amongst the best at analyzing the ramifications of actions or inactions, because this type of individual has carefully examined an issue according to his “value set.”

In my decades of management consulting, the most effective leaders are always those that combine idealism and pragmatism. They set an agenda, have goals, know what they want to achieve, use action plans, and “fight for what they believe” is right! I would rather have a pragmatic idealist as a leader than any other type of individual!

Richard Brody has over 30 years consultative sales, marketing, training, managerial, and operations experience. He has trained sales and marketing people in numerous industries, given hundreds of seminars, appeared as a company spokesperson on over 200 radio and television programs, and regularly blogs on real estate, politics, economics, management, leadership, negotiations, conferences and conventions, etc. Richard has negotiated, arranged and/ or organized hundreds of conferences and conventions. Richard is a Senior Consultant with RGB Consultation Services, an Ecobroker, a Licensed Buyers Agent (LBA) and Licensed Salesperson in NYS, in real estate.

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