If you have been a reader of our blog for any amount of time, you know that we believe strongly in Thoughtful Leadership – being mindful, intentional and self-aware in your leadership actions. So, when I saw the title of a recent s+b article, Hey Leaders: Stop Thinking So Much and Just Do It, I was wary of the advice they were likely dispensing. However, I quickly learned that the principles shared, taken from one of the latest leadership books – Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader – were very much in line with our beliefs about leadership.
The book warns of the limitations of too much thinking without strong action. I couldn’t agree more. Thoughtful Leadership is all about action – but not action for action’s sake. We know that getting caught in an endless cycle of overlapping meetings, impossible deadlines, and ever-growing demands can cause leaders to take action without vision and forethought. And that can lead to poor decisions, team dysfunction, and less-than-stellar results.
The article shares three important ideas that the author, Herminia Ibarra, a professor at INSEAD, recommends for developing your leadership:
- You have to act like a leader before you’ll be tapped for a leadership role – It’s common understanding that you get the job by already doing the job. If you have your eyes on the next level up, then you have to demonstrate that you can quickly be successful in the role. If your desired next job requires you to develop new business and manage a large team, then you have to manage your career path and seek opportunities to build those competencies.
- You develop “outsight” by getting out of your comfort zone – Ibarra defines “outsight” as the perspective we gain through actions as opposed to insight gained from thought. Your willingness to try new things, risk failure, and dabble in the unknown and ambiguous can have huge payoffs. This is where growth happens. Ibarra notes that staying in the “comfort of your competencies” can hurt you when your industry or field changes and the skills and expertise you need changes.
- Carve out time to network and develop new skills – “I have no time,” is often the excuse for doing things as we always have done. Ibarra recommends devoting time to side projects that build your network and expose you to new avenues and functions that will broaden your capabilities.
In addition, two other ideas to consider in order to move successfully between thought and action are:
- Focus on your long-term goals – Getting caught in the day-to-day pressures and short-term thinking pulls us away from long-term goals and strategies. Committing to regular action toward your long-term goals requires structures that keep these goals top of mind (calendar reminders, scheduled time chunks, visual cues), a plan of action with deadlines/resources needed, and a weekly/monthly/quarterly self-evaluation on progress.
- Involve others – Don’t make the mistake of going it alone. Growing as a leader is best done with support and connection to others. Developing relationships with mentors, trusted advisors, colleagues, and those in fields and organizations you want to know more about is critical to stretching yourself and expanding your network. It also gives you the opportunity to hear objective perspectives and diverse viewpoints.
Thoughtful Leadership combines thoughtful reflection with thoughtful action – and that leads you to being the best leader you can be.
How do you stay in thoughtful action?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
To think and act more effectively, contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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