Leading With The Blinkers Off By Acknowledging The Bigger Picture
Vision is a powerful concept. It can draw people to your mission and attract multiple resources. Holding onto a strong vision is essential for leadership, we have to know what we want and how we want to get it. Focus can work for and against us, too much focus on one aspect can prevent us from seeing others. The idea of ourselves as a leader can be a huge challenge to overcome. Taking power when deserved means you are in control. As an authority with a leadership role, any anti-authority sentiment you may hold onto will have to go. Where does this spur from? Bad leaders cause us to feel bad about leadership when we don’t understand the subject. Now that we are learning, it’s possible to redefine what is wrong with these people. Authority, when used properly and fairly, is not a bad thing. Harmful and costly behaviour must be controlled, and if its originator can’t control it then it falls to us. People need guidance and instruction. It takes a lot of skill to discover a method or idea but the combined skills of all our predecessors are written down for easy access.
If we can’t let go of the us in authority idea, it will dominate our thinking and prevent us from working. The same can be said for anxiety about others or dreams of the great future you are bringing about. Any of these potent ideas can but a stop in the works when thinking about the entire scheme you are in charge of. So let’s look at what matters, what we have to think about, and how they are balanced with everything else.
It’s about paying attention. It’s difficult to be attentive when we’re building the big dream, let’s face it, it’s exciting work. This isn’t a dance floor, though. Staying calm and preventing big ideas from lingering in your mind by not emotionally attaching takes practice. Some people are naturally good at dealing with people or working with life-changing decisions, but others are not. In reality, it’s your imagination that can lift you over the head of those who seem to fit in straight away. What inhibited you, to begin with, will eventually be your greatest asset if you can learn to stay calm under pressure.
Balancing our attention is important. Like mentioned earlier, we can’t focus on one thing. It has to be about the big picture and we can’t allow ourselves to dwell or get caught up in one part of the bigger whole. There are two main directions of focus at our disposal. One is inward and the other is outward. If we can learn to have one eye on each other at the same time, we can ensure the perspective we offer is relevant to us and them at the same time. A lot of leaders find themselves only thinking of things from their side, negating the other side as irrelevant. This might be true for a computer with defined priorities and procedures but we’re people. We have a lot more going on than the hierarchy of the micro-situation. We have to acknowledge the way things are seen from the other way around before we can make a valid judgement on how to act. Perhaps the most effective demonstration of why this is important is when people commit crimes. They have a desire for a thing, and without considering the perspective of their victim, they commit a crime. Leaders can behave like this when not thinking of the full picture, and this damages the team and creates discord between individuals.
Connecting with our empathy is how we bridge the gap between our agenda and the needs and feelings of those we are around. There is three types of empathy that require consideration in all situations. By looking at a situation from these three empathic perspectives, we can make good judgements on how to move forward.
Empathic care is when we show genuine concern for another person by understanding what they are asking of us. When we understand, it must be from their point of view. It doesn’t mean we have to do it, but what we need to do is fully appreciate what someone needs us to do for them. To determine if we should comply we can use emotional empathy. This is a bit more challenging as we are determining how a person actually feels. Sometimes people want us to do something because they are feeling a certain way and we can determine for ourselves if their feeling is based on the truth or not. A racist may want you to fire a person of another colour, and they might be very passionate and upset. You’d need to think about whether they have a right to ask this of you and what you should do. Of course, the racist would be asked to leave, but that’s not how they will see it. This requires one more type of empathy, which is perspective. Understanding what another person is thinking can explain what they are feeling and therefore why they want you to act. Sometimes people hide their true thoughts from us, knowing they’d not be accepted. Finding genuine reasons behind a person’s needs and wants is the ultimate test. Is this person being honest with you?
So now we are at the point when self-awareness becomes important again. The only way you can determine if a person is genuine and if your ability to act is reasonable is by addressing your intuition. You’ve been trained, you’ve had the experience of life, you’ve maybe been in similar shoes to theirs before, what do you think is the pip of this fruit?
Gut instincts and emotional triggers are the opposite of each other. A gut instinct is a niggle or a subtle assumption that keeps suggesting itself. An emotional trigger is a mindless reaction to something that hurts you. Like touching a hot plate, you withdraw instantly. If someone is asking you to consider something unpleasant then remember that your emotional reaction isn’t a reason to act. You’d take the book out of the fire even if it hurt a little. If the book was a cheap reproduction, then you may decide to not save it. That’s your intuition taking over.
Self-control is how we manage these leadership skills. It takes focus and energy to continue to be aware of the many true perspectives that surround us. Remaining calm and alert is how to continue to lead. Calm can mean non-thinking and this prevents leadership. Alert can mean on edge, and this prevents leadership. Being both calm and alert is the real balancing act that enables empathy for others and for yourself at the same time.