Why Great Leaders Look for What Isn’t Obvious

by Jan 9, 2020Leadership

At this time of year, many are considering, and re-considering past decisions. As often as we may refer to scorecards and key indicators, they don’t tell us everything and what they don’t tell us is as important as what they do.

Great leaders are continuously looking for information that confirms, but especially what does not confirm, what they believe. This is one reason people have more faith in a leader who admits mistakes, makes well-reasoned course corrections, and shares what they are learning along the way. This sort of leader makes it the norm to be curious, to quickly see and fix error, and most important of all to gather information in all sorts of ways.

Here are some ways to look more deeply into your own business or personal life. Some things you notice may be useful right away, some not, and others merely interesting. Interesting is good too.

1. Learn first, judge second.

Go where your customers are. If you work for Apple, hang out in a store. If you want Apple to be your customer, hang out in several stores. Watch what is happening, speak with a few people, and keep yourself in learning mode – suspend judgement for a time.

2. Adopt the attitude of “how can I use this?”

One organization, made up of highly educated people, was very successful in the past. However, they succumbed to over-confidence and used convoluted logic to justify bad decisions. Like many organizations, they didn’t believe they could learn anything from successful organizations unless they were similar. The problem was most organizations like them were suffering a similar fate and for the same reasons.

Great leaders are continuously looking for information that confirms, but especially what does not confirm, what they believe. Share on X

3. Look for the cause of success.

One trap many fall into is looking for the cause of failures. It is important to understand why things go wrong, when they do but too many people don’t study the cause of their successes. Sometimes an organization will overlook a learning opportunity that is right in front of them – inside their own organization. Awards for results are great but if you are curious enough to understand how they happen it will open up a whole world of possibilities.

There is a reason why leaders are advised to get out of their office. Usually the reason is to be seen, so people will know the leader is real, and they care about what is happening. That’s great but the leader, who isn’t mired in the details is positioned to notice what it is difficult for others to see. Take advantage of that opportunity, create the opportunity and get out of your usual lane – you and your company will be far better for it.

I’d love to hear your stories of success. How did you get out of your own usual way of thinking and what benefits accrued as a result?

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