If you google leadership skills you will get an epic amount of articles with a long laundry list of things like: strategic planning, relationship building, delegation, empathy, creativity, and on and on. There is one leadership skill that underpins all of them: perspective. When we see better, we lead better.
Perspective is power. How are you honing yours?
When we look at things differently, things we look at don’t change, we do. It’s this ability to see things differently that gives us adaptability and growth as leaders. It’s all too easy to default to our familiar viewpoint. It’s comfortable. It’s also how we get blindsided. Here are three ways to develop your perspective.
1. Ask for feedback
I had a walking meeting with CEO Martin Fisk recently. He told me, “you do best working with executive teams. It’s where you shine the most.” I was surprised by this. Sort of. Somewhere below the surface of consciousness was an awareness that I love working with executive teams. I hadn’t realised it was visible to others. This kind of feedback from others can help us lean in to our strengths, make decisions that fulfil us. Constructive feedback is also useful – it stops us from messing up even more. As leaders, we need to seek this feedback from far and wide. It’s the only way to see the back of our head and what might be hiding there.
2. Interrogate your thinking
Thoughts are our constant companions. Sometimes they are useful, sometimes they are useless twaddle. Because our brain is a meaning-making machine, it will produce interpretation and judgments from the scantest of information, thanks to our brain’s amazing associative capacity. Sometimes those associations are helpful, like when someone lurching towards you wielding a knife triggers an associative thought of, ‘this is dangerous – get away now’. Sometimes the thoughts are not that helpful, like when we jump to conclusions about people’s motives.
Deliberate interrogation of our thoughts and assumptions is an important leadership practice. Write down your assumptions about a person, event or situation, and ask, ‘is this true? How do I know? Where is the evidence?” Ask, ‘what if it’s not true? How would I know?’ Treat your thoughts with reasonable doubts to prevent assumptions leading the way.
3. Read widely
Books are a huge return on time invested. It will take an author anywhere from one year to many to write a book, let alone the research and life experience that gets distilled into a book. For a few hours of attention, you get years of experience and insight. What a deal!
Fiction is also a worthy investment of your time. Fiction helps us to live other people’s lives. Our imagination allows us to embody the experience of others we read about. We feel what the characters feel, we live their tragedies and their triumphs. And so we build a database of emotional experiences that add to our resilience. Fiction also gives us a window into other times and cultures, building our empathy skills. These are critical for leadership at any level.
How will you build your leadership perspective? What can you do today?