Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Leaders Care About

Many people read my leadership blog. A blog where I talk about my experience and what works for me. Also, I am always encouraging everyone to think for themselves and think critically. Only then you can find what is right for you, what works for you, what fits you. Don’t just believe.
Lately, I am more often approached by some of my readers telling me that they ‘completely agree with what I am saying’. Of course, that makes one feel well. Yet, I then ask them what exactly it is that they agree upon completely with and why. And they tell me down to the detail the what and why. They tell me that they now know and understand leadership so much better. They tell me that they have learned a lot.
My next question then is, how much of what they agree upon they have already implemented. What they are doing with what they have learned. How they are using it. And that’s when I usually get the blank look. Turns out that in 99% nothing was implemented or executed at all. Nothing has changed. Business as usual. Or, the typical behavior of wannabe leaders.
What do true leaders care about?
True leaders are a special breed. They don’t live by the book. They don’t follow rules, they make rules when necessary. They don’t allow anybody to force them into predetermined patterns / structures to follow. They dislike, even hate hierarchies in the classical, traditional sense. They love freedom. The freedom to follow their own innovative ways. In their own, often fast paced, speed. They don't follow the proverbial 'different drummer'. They are their own drummer.
Leaders have a natural curiosity. An immense curiosity. They always want to know and understand. They immerse themselves in many different fields. Fields often unrelated, or so it seems to most at first glance, to what they are doing right now. They know that ‘tunnel vision’ is dangerous. They understand the importance of a broad perspective. And they look into these other fields in depth.
Each time leaders find something new of importance to them, they look for ways to include that into their repertoire. That could mean that what they found is an addition. Or, it could also mean that it is replacing something else. Leaders have no problem to get rid of stuff that no longer serves them. Stuff, that is outdated or plain wrong. They have no problem recognizing to be wrong and adjusting accordingly. The only thing leaders always ask for is evidence. And then they implement and they do that fast. Leaders think, talk, and act fast. Faster than most others. Even if that might put others at unease.
Leaders care about spending time with experts from different fields. They enjoy sharing and discussing with them and learning new things from them. They don’t just hang out and meet with people from their own field. Nothing new to learn there. Usually the same stuff over and over again. Irrelevant for broadening one’s perspective. "When you want to learn about wolves, don't ask sheep."
Leaders care about time. They understand time and its importance. A minute spent you can never get back. Time is your most valuable resource. Spending your time wisely is, thus, mandatory. Even when others might accuse them of being rude, leaders don’t waste time with trivia. Leaders dislike meaningless small talk.
Leaders care about character. They don't care about ranks or other insignia of assigned leadership. Leaders care about and respect people who have something important and relevant to contribute. Something they can learn from. They love the intellectual challenge.
Leaders don’t waste time discussing pointless things. Rather, they avoid discussions purportless to them and, instead, focus on what’s relevant. They also dislike endless discussing and noodling through of issues that are already crystal clear to them. Hence, they surround themselves with a team of people able to ‘match their dynamics’. People able to be a formidable intellectual challenge. Often and preferably also troublemakers. Those never accepting the status quo. Direct and to the point. That’s the type of people leaders are learning from. Leaders are aware that they don’t know everything. They care about their team.
Leaders can easily distinguish between what’s relevant for them and what’s not. Irrelevant stuff they can’t learn from. Hence, they get rid of it immediately. Relevant stuff they use and implement fast without hesitation. Leaders care about implementing and using what works. No such thing as saying it’s relevant for them but then faltering with implementing it.
Leaders care. And they know what to care about.

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