Fresh Leadership

“We’ve always done it that way” is just about the worst possible reason for doing almost anything.

If you’re going to lead effectively then you’re going to need to know exactly why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. What’s worked for a long time, even if it’s still working, may not be the best way of doing it anymore.

If you’re a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of leader or a “don’t reinvent the wheel” type then I have question for you: How are those stone wheels on that hot new car working out for you? The fact is some of the best inventions ever made were just improvements on stuff that was working good enough.

Leaders can get stuck in ruts just like anyone else, it’s just that the consequences tend to be greater when it happens to them. That’s why the most effective leaders are always looking for a fresh perspective on pretty much everything they do. They know what is, what they really want to know is, what’s possible.

Here are a few ideas to shift your thinking from the “is” to the “could be.”

Look at your situation, issue or challenge from someone else’s point of view. If you were a six-year-old child, what would you see? If you were a fighter pilot, or a hippie in the ‘60s, or a prisoner of war, how would things look different then?
Describe the situation in writing. It’s amazing what we see when we see it in black and white. Draw it out on a white board, do a flow chart of your process (you maybe didn’t even realize there was a process) and consider every little thing. Assume nothing and leave nothing to chance.

Take a gigantic step away from the situation and ask yourself these questions: How does this situation fit into the larger scheme of things? What are the consequences of the consequences of what I’m thinking of doing. How does it affect want I’m trying to achieve in life? Does it “fit” with the values I have for my life and my organization? How will I feel about it in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?

Ask for the opinion of someone very different than you. You won’t learn much from someone who thinks a lot like you or from someone with a similar background as yours. Remember, a fresh perspective will likely be a different perspective than the one you currently have. It’s okay if you don’t like it or don’t agree with it, you can get an even fresher one tomorrow.

Stay curious. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it can save a leader their career. Never stop asking “why do we do this” and “how can we do it better.” There has never been a leader who thrived on auto-pilot, don’t kid yourself, you’re not likely to be the first.

Wait. I’m admittedly terrible at this one. I’m perpetually in a hurry to “get it done.” But it’s amazing how different things can look from one day to the next. Maybe even from one hour to the next. I can’t tell you the number of times I could have done something better by just practicing this simply principle. Wait.

Now, having said that, let me remind you, there is a big difference between productive waiting and productivity destroying procrastination. Effective leaders know the difference.

Leadership is perishable, if we don’t constantly fertilize and freshen it with new thoughts, new insights, new ideas and new practices it can become stale pretty quickly. Have you checked the “freshness date” on your leadership lately?

8 thoughts on “Fresh Leadership

  1. From the looks of that image, we could almost be talking about a new soda pop beverage! (Were you drinking your favorite when publishing this post Steve???) GRINS

    You’ve done a great job covering some key elements on ways we can keep our leadership fresh. One of my other friends ( Nic Askew ) made a short film with Seth Godin called Curiosity.
    ( http://nicaskew.com/collection/curiosity/ )

    Seth said something really important about curiosity and why it becomes SO DIFFICULT for us to hold onto it in life:

    ‘It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. That for 7, 10, 15 years of school, we are required to not be curious. Over and over and over again the curious are punished.

    … It’s more 5 or 10 or 15 year process where people start finding their voice and they start realizing the safest thing they can do feels risky and the riskiest thing they can do is play it safe.’

    And there it is…curiosity was punished right out of most of us. And now we have an opportunity to take it back. To own our curiosity… IF we are willing to take the risk to do it.

    Great post Steve and I love the addition of the questions. Nice touch. : )

    • I was thinking about our lemon and lime trees in Phoenix – they will be ready for picking soon 🙂

      I know an incredibly bright guy, mid thirties, who has led an absolutely incredible life…. Because he remains curious. He is always looking for something to learn. He speaks 7 highly, highly unusual languages and once spent a month alone in the Amazon “to discover.” He truly is amazing.

      One other amazing thing is how many people are bothered by his curiosity and love of learning new things. It is interesting to watch people interact with him, they really do try to kill his passion.

      I guess it is sad that growing up means giving up learning to soooooo many people.

      • Tell your wife to be careful when she makes the lemonade this time! (Yes, I remember!)

        7 languages is quite a phenomenal accomplishment! No small task. Did he learn simply for the love of those languages? Or was it part necessity? I love it.

        I only know wee bits and pieces of French, German, Spanish, and Russian. Took French in high school and college and where did I wind up? GERMANY! ha! : ) Picked up a few words and sentences of Russian when I took care of some Ukrainian patients when I used to work at our local hospital. Then when I home schooled my oldest daughter, we started learning Spanish together in Kindergarten thru a class offered to homeschooling families in our area. Would LOVE to be fluent in them but it’s not the case.

        The love of learning helps keep me alive. (in addition to my children) If I had my way, I’d learn all of my favorite languages and be proficient in most musical instruments, and travel to all of my favorite countries before I die. I’m fascinated with various cultures and ways of life.

        This guy you know sounds amazing. NEVER stop learning! : )

      • Ha, I’ll remind her but I’m thinking she may remember on her own.

        Yep, he learned because he wanted to… Languages from a tribe almost unknown to the world, he is one of the few “outsiders” they would teach it to. He is a most unusual guy.

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