“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” – Thomas Sowell
I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with a group of outstanding leaders on a regular basis. We get together and talk about a lot of different topics, mostly big picture stuff. It’s an opportunity for those leaders to get out of their day-to-day craziness and think from a higher level. I think it’s beneficial for them; I know it’s beneficial for me.
At one of our recent get-togethers, one of the leaders made a comment that struck me as particularly insightful. The gist of it was that as a leader, you can have all the talent and ability in the world, and you can learn every leadership behavior and skill there is, but if you lack awareness, you will not do very well.
You’re not going to know when to use which tool in your toolbox. You’re not going to recognize what your team needs from you when they need it. You’re just going to lead randomly, and maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.
That’s really profound, and a little bit scary. How often do we have conversations without really thinking about what we’re saying or how we’re saying it? How many interactions do we have with team members or customers or others who influence our organizations without really being prepared? Based solely on observation, I’m afraid that number is pretty high.
Think about yourself as a leader. Do you really put thought and effort into evaluating what your team members need and then figure out how you’re going to provide that? Or do you read something really good in a leadership book and decide that’s how you’re going to lead this month?
In reality, I think a lot of leaders pre-determine what kind of leader they’re going to be based on what they think is correct, rather than evaluating each unique situation and providing what that situation calls for. The result is that most leaders sometimes hit the mark, and sometimes miss badly.
Don’t lead randomly. Really put energy into thinking about and understanding what your people need from you as a leader. It will be different from year to year, from day to day, even perhaps from conversation to conversation.
Enter into your interactions with people with the idea that you need to understand what’s called for, and then provide that. The best leaders are constantly evolving and adapting. Make sure you are too.