Manila, 28 June 2017 — Good leaders practice the art of taking perspectives. So what comes after that? Want to make a guess?
What do leaders do after taking perspectives?
If you enjoy visual clues, and sci-fi or George Clooney, watch this clip of the Solaris movie.
Alternatively, if you prefer reading, check out this section of The Naked Leader Experience by David Taylor. Of course, you can do both, for a richer experience.
First, let's talk a bit about developing perspectives and why that is so important to leaders and good leadership.
"We see the world not as it is, but as we are—or sometimes as we are conditioned to see it," said leadership guru Stephen R. Covey.
As leaders, we work on doing better than that. We don't like staying inside our conditioning. We want to break free from it.
What that means is that we deliberately put on new glasses that help us recognize our conditioning for what it is. Then we punch a hole in our box of conditioning (our worldview) to discover how other people actually see the world (and us). This practice is called taking perspectives.
Leadership training is full of exercises to help us expand our awareness to take new perspectives and to master this art wherever we are. It also lies at the heart of my work as a leadership coach.
Training and coaching help us to expand our self-awareness, and our awareness of the situations we find ourselves in, and of the wider world around us, including our relationships with family members, loved ones, friends, community, our business, our staff, clients, partners, society, country, and the planet.
There are, literally, no boundaries to how far our awareness can grow when we make an effort and keep practicing. We gain lots of benefits from doing this.
Obviously, with an expanded awareness we are able to understand our lives and our world better, and all the things that are happening for reasons that eluded us earlier. Our view becomes wider, and clearer too.
Once we have acquired a wider worldview, our narrower worldview doesn't fit us anymore, like clothes that we have outgrown.
As our frame of understanding grows, we find that we no longer need to reject things that are happening in our world and that we did not understand before. That helps us maintain an open mind and a positive attitude to what is happening inside us and around us.
Perhaps most importantly, with an expanded awareness and understanding, we can make better decisions. That matters to leaders, of course, as we want to lead change in our business and make our world a better place.
It is easier said than done, however.
Once we learn to see the world around us through more perspectives, and appreciate its complexity better—as if seeing the world in full color rather than black and white—we find that our decision space has also expanded and become more complex.
Have you attended a meeting or brainstorming session that seemed never-ending, without reaching a conclusion and decision to take action?
Or watched TED talks that seemed to give you ever more ideas worth spreading, yet without actually moving you forward to take action and make a difference?
Then you know what I mean, and you get a sense that an expanded awareness can lead us to the conundrum of analysis paralysis, where we keep looking for better answers and solutions to the problems we explore in our increasingly complex world, without actually moving forward.
Even though we look at the world in full color by applying multiple perspectives, and we find ourselves informed with a lot more understanding, we also encounter more ... procrastination.
The missing ingredient
So what's the missing ingredient? What should we do after taking perspectives?
I like how in Chinese philosophy, wisdom always has two sides, two fundamental and complementary dynamics that we have come to know as yin and yang.
Those of you who have watched the Solaris clip or read the book fragment already know what's coming, right?
The essential complementary mastery to taking perspectives is ... making choices.
Without making choices, we don't move forward, no matter how much we have learned from taking perspectives in search of a better understanding, solution, and answer.
Ultimately, in David Taylor's words, "there are no answers, there are only choices."
As leaders, we are of course free to take lots of perspectives on the question of how to make choices.
In my experience, however, making choices works best if you keep it simple, by asking yourself what will bring you closer to your goal (even when that choice looks challenging) versus what will take you farther from your goal (even when that choice looks more attractive).
What goal, you ask?
Well, it can be your life goal, your goal for this year or this week or today, or the goal of making your best contribution to the situation you find yourself in, like helping colleagues in a meeting reach a conclusion. That's up to you to decide ... or shall I say choose?