5 Ways to Help Leaders Think

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Here are 5 quick things I have learned when it comes to the thinking aspect of being a leader. I recognise this may not come easy to everyone but I have discovered the importance of the thinking the process, and how much it is an essential aspect of leadership which every leader must embrace.

To not think things through could be seen as ignorant, maybe lazy, perhaps a little dangerous.

Create Space. For me I have to be deliberate and block out time, even to the point of putting it in the diary as an appointment sometimes.

Learn they way which works for you. I like a clear desk and a pile of clean sheets of paper and then I am ready to go on the journey of thinking, noting down thoughts, questions, ideas which I can come back to later. To an observer it may seem like a curious process but I have learned over the years what works for me.

Honest Reflection. We have to be willing to ask the more difficult questions. It’s not about what I think is right for me but rather what is right for what or who I am leading, to which there is a subtle difference.

Good sounding boards. My personality is more introvert and therefore I naturally lean to sitting on my own to work things through. However, that is not the best kind of leadership. Getting the right people around me can help take my own good thoughts and make them even better. Plus it is good to be able to ask someone else who you trust and who shares the same vision, values and heart as you, ‘what do you think?’

Time with God. I can have great thoughts but what I really want are Gods thoughts. All of the above are only as useful as it is to make time to hear from God, what does He think, how is He wanting to lead and direct me. One of my favourite scriptures is from Proverbs 16:9 ‘A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps’.

There are benefits to thinking things through properly, none so more powerful than just not looking like you haven’t really thought about it. People are not always keen to follow a leader who doesn’t seem to care or give them confidence of any thought or preparation.

Thinking things through builds trust. It creates a greater sense of team, if we involve them too in the thinking process. It shares responsibility too. It reveals how much you actually care about who or what it is you are leading.

Why not take some time this week and create your own thinking plan. Think about how you will make time to think. I guarantee it will be worth it, for you and for your teams.

Any other suggestions in regard to this idea of leadership and thinking?

Leaders Are Show Ups, Not Show Offs

Leadership is a funny thing. I have learned many things during the past twenty-odd years in various leadership roles, some of which have been much simpler than others  to grasp but no less important. This would be one of them: leaders show up.

Think about it, in all different arenas of life, from politics, to business, to the local community, to the church and in sport, we look for the leaders. We celebrate those individuals who dare to make a decision, those who will lead, those who will grab the game by the scruff of its neck, those who instill some passion in others, or who bring clarity to proceedings. They remind us about the cause, that it is possible and show us how we can get there.

People are looking for a leader who will show up, and not just at the end when the plaudits are out. This kind of leader displays a characteristic often taken forgranted by those who ‘have made it’ and who begin to forget to show up.

Be the kind of leader who will show up, not just show off.

Show up to get stuff done.
Show up to work alongside your team.
Show up to say thanks to that team.
Show up in good times.
Show up in a crisis.
Show up all the time.
Show up when it’s convenient.
Show up when it’s inconvenient.
Show up when there is no one else to see you show up.
Show up and become credible.
Show up on time.
Show up and be the best leader you can possible be.

Leadership Disciplines [3]

Last week I wrote about two priorities for me right now ~ to stop telling others what to do and to stop doing things that others could do just as well.

I stand by them but while I press on with a new found focus to empower I am mindful of some other leadership truths…

Some people prefer to be told what to do

Some people prefer to not do the things that I do

The challenge for me as a leader is to know when to push on these and when to back off. Unfortunately I don’t think there is any guidelines or 3-step plans for learning this either. It’s trial and error. I have done it well and I have done it badly. Maybe it’s more about that elusive leadership intuition, that ability to understand something or in this instance, someone, instinctively, a belief that there is more inside the person that they can see in themselves.

With this in mind here are two more aspects of my leadership which I will continue to be disciplined about…

I won’t stop seeing the ‘more’ in you than you see in yourself

I will keep telling you that you can do the ‘more’ than you think you can do

What leadership disciplines do you have?

[Read the previous posts here: Leadership Disciplines & Leadership Disciplines 2]

Leadership Stuff I’m Always Learning

In no particular order of importance, here’s a bunch of things I am always working on and continue to learn about…

Learn to be the ultimate servant. Leaders serve people. When you stop serving or look for reasons why you don’t have to then maybe you are beginning to rely too much on your title. Where can you make your serve more effective?

Learn to listen. We love to talk but it’s the art of listening that can make all the difference. People want to know they are being heard. Who needs you to listen?

Learn to hear God. As much as we need to learn to listen to people, hearing the whisper of God is more important. What has God been saying to you recently? Have you heard His voice lately?

Learn to think. Such an under-rated skill, thinking. Sometimes we don’t know what to do and it’s often just for a lack of thinking it through. Create some space, remove distractions and mull it over. Where are you stuck? What needs some thinking time?

Learn to pray. Prayer makes a difference but is so often the last thing we do. As Christian leaders we probably all need to focus more on this one. You can never pray too much, can you? What are you believing God for at the moment? Who are you praying for?

Learn to read. Leaders are readers. Simple. Reading makes you think, helps you grow, opens your mind to different ways of approaching situations. However brilliant you may be we have to remember that ‘no-one is as smart as all of us’. What are you reading right now that is challenging you in your leadership and all aspects of life?

Learn to lead through the vision. Vision is out of which flows decisions and priorities. If you don’t know the vision then you don’t know what to say yes and no to. Leading through the vision will also help others understand why we do what we do. Are you leading through the vision or your own personal preferences?

Learn the values and the culture of where you are one of the leaders. It’s not my way that matters. I may consider it to be the greatest idea since sliced bread but if it doesn’t match the values and culture of where I am then it will only work against what is being built. All I create is a sub-culture and that is never healthy. Are you over protective of where you lead? Are you empowering of the next generation?

Learn about people. John Maxwell writes that ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. To care does not come naturally, very often it takes quite a bit of effort. How do your people skills need to improve? How can you improve your understanding of those you lead?

Learn to honest, open and transparent. Sam Chand writes that the culture of an organisation should be like this. For that to happen it must start with those who lead. We demand it of others, we want them to admit mistakes, be accepting of new ideas and able to share experiences, so why don’t we do the same. Where are you pointing the finger at others and saying they are wrong while not placing yourself as a leader under the same scrutiny?

These are a good place to start in our leadership learning. What would add, if anything, to the list?

Don’t Take It Personally

One of the biggest things you have to learn as a leader is to not take things personally.

Leadership isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone, so don’t make it harder by taking stuff that you don’t need to take on. Carrying extra baggage only makes the leadership journey harder than it already is. Here’s some things I’ve had to learn that are just a part of being a leader…

Pop shots at how you lead. The ‘You’re a lovely person but…’ kind of statement.

Questioning what you do. The ‘Why have you come here?’ type stuff. Or the ‘I wouldn’t do it that way’ comments.

Those last-minute changes. The ‘Can we do this now’ which comes from our leaders that can be thrown upon us.

Team challenges. Missing team. Why aren’t they turning up and how we think it’s our fault.

As a leader we have said we will carry it, we will cover it, we will own it, which means all this stuff and more is inevitable. It’s not personal. I have discovered that the only reason I take it personally is because there maybe an element of truth in it and I don’t like the challenge.

Here are the questions I ask myself,,.

What can I learn here and do I need to make any changes? Even if I 100% disagree there is obviously a perception about me coming through so I am wise to take note. Often the reasons we don’t like how we feel is because there some truth in what we hear. We are not being a very good leader. No one enjoys listening to something when it reveals an element of truth. Be honest with yourself and look at how you may need to grow. 

Who are making the challenges or comments? If it’s from those who lead me then sometimes I just have to suck it up and do it. If it’s from the team then perhaps I have to see if I’m leading them well enough. From anywhere else, I can listen but may choose to ignore it after asking myself the first question.

How am I growing myself? Sometimes I haven’t responded well to the challenges of leadership. One thing though has helped over the years ~ always be learning. Read, listen, have some accountability. Whatever works for you but I know that when I’m not doing anything to grow my leadership capacity I become more susceptible to taking things personally.

My final comment is this. Even when it gets personal don’t take it personally. Most of the the time we choose to take it personally when we don’t need to. On rare occasions it will be personal, maybe even downright nasty. Stay calm. Don’t argue. Ask yourself the questions. Move on. Don’t take it with you.

Leadership isn’t easy. It is a challenge. However the rewards are amazing and I wouldn’t change what I get the privilege to do every day.

What would you add to help leaders not take things personally?

Always Ready

Leaders lead.

One thing I have had to learn (in 25yrs of various leadership roles) is that when it comes to leadership, even when it’s a day off, that doesn’t disqualify you from your leadership position.

This is not an argument for being a workaholic and never having time off. Rest and relaxation are very important. It’s just my realisation that leaders can delegate as much as they like, can be away from their desk and not ‘actually’ be the one doing the work, yet they are still leading.

In fact, how things are when you are not there is often a bigger sign of your leadership ability than when you are.

Leaders are always ready. They are never ‘off’. It’s never alright to say ‘that’s not my job’.

I have come to rest comfortably that I am always leading, therefore I am always ready, for both the expected and the unexpected. That I cannot be ‘off duty’ and act ‘however’ because even the casual moments are moments that others may observe. Integrity is won and lost more in those ‘moments’ than in the ‘work’ times.

Always ready. If you don’t want that then my suggestion is simple…don’t be a leader.

Be a Before & After Leader

Before is often the more exciting.

In a relationship, BEFORE is when the chase is on.

In a business, BEFORE is the idea creation moments.

In sport, BEFORE is the heightened anticipation ahead of the game and the expectation of a win.

In leadership, BEFORE is in the desire, ambition, creativity, thinking and the thrill of being the one who is making things happen.

We love the BEFORE. It gets our energy, our attention and our time. It can inconvenience us, it might even keep us awake at night, but the experience, though scary at times, makes it all the more worthwhile.

Yet the power might really be in the AFTER.

In a relationship, AFTER is when we choose to love because of covenant.

In business, AFTER is serving your customers well, again and again and again.

In sport, AFTER is picking yourself up, whether you win, lose or draw.

In leadership, AFTER is being the last one to leave because you are there to serve, no matter what.

The difference between good and great leaders is the difference between those who love the before but avoid the after. Great leaders love before and after the same and their focus throughout the whole process clearly demonstrates that.

Questions, Leadership, Walking with God and much more

I wrote about a whole bunch of things throughout 2014. The 2 main themes were about Walking with God and leadership thoughts I would tell my 19yr old self when I was first given a leadership opportunity.

Here are the more popular ones if you missed them…

Ask Questions

Everyone Else is Doing It

Leadership Discretion

My Confrontation Experience

Amazing

How to Handle People

Leadership Involves Staying Teachable

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