“But this focus on what a leader does is misplaced. That’s because moves that work in one context often make no sense in another, even at the same company or within the same experience of a single leader… Trying to learn from what Jack Welch did invites confusion and incoherence, because he pursued – wisely, I might add – diametrically opposed courses at different points in his career and in GE’s history… So where do we look for lessons? A more productive, though more difficult approach is to focus on how a leader thinks – that is, to examine the antecedent of doing, or the way in which leaders’ cognitive processes produce their actions.”
The point made by Roger Martin really hit me between the eyes. Leadership starts with how we think and ends in the actions which arise from those thoughts. We need to learn the principles and attitudes from other successful leaders, rather than blindly copying their actions and behaviours.
- Learn the Principles: Copying the ten quick steps to casting vision by following the action of a successful leader does not work. Gaining insight into the thinking and principles that underpins a leaders actions is what’s most important. Leadership principles can be understood and adapted and used to guide effective action to meet the local situation.
- Learn the Attitudes: Leadership begins with the decision to lead, it’s a choice we make or fail to make. Once we’ve make the decision to lead, we need to start developing the attitudes and thinking that define leaders. The decision to create a meaningful purpose and vision, decisions motivated by a passion and energy to be the change you wish to see in the world, and the decision to be committed and to persevere to see it through.
Could it be that leadership is lacking because we fail to do the hard work of learning to think? With limited time for meaningful reflection and deep thinking, it’s no wonder we are increasingly finding a lack of leadership. The lack of reflective and deep thinking leaves us vulnerable to looking for quick fixes and thus we blindly copy the actions and techniques of those we deem successful.
How about in your personal life? Do you set aside sufficient time to think? How is this affecting your leadership? Are you learning the principles and attitude of other successful leaders? Are you learning to think like a leader?