The Power Of Perspectives In Leadership

Earnest Hemingway once said, “When people talk, listen completely.” This must be one of the cornerstones to leadership. Leaders who listen to those they lead will grow strong, successful organizations and businesses. There is great power in encouraging and listening to multiple perspectives as a leader. Leadership that listens completely to what people on their team are saying, will create an environment of respect and stability. A team is only as good as their weakest member. A leader who closes their minds to others’ perspectives, thoughts, and concerns, and chooses to not listen completely runs the risk of being the weakest member. 

The success of an organization or business can easily be determined by who leadership chooses to surround themselves with. Mark Ambrose once stated, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you your future.” Who we associate with and allow into our circle of influence will have a significant impact on our success. American entrepreneur and author, Jim Rohn, said, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.” Leaders must choose carefully who they spend time with, who they listen to, and who they are influenced by. Leaders must choose carefully who they surround themselves with. However, this is where I might become a little more unconventional.

I do not believe leaders should surround themselves with conformists. Another term for these people would be, “Yes Men.” If leadership is surrounded by individuals who constantly say, “Okay” or “Yes”, without questioning motives, purpose, and direction, then leadership is at risk of running the ship aground. Strong, effective leadership keeps an open mind, welcomes questions and concerns, and allows the freedom of all individuals to express opinions, ideas, and thoughts about motives, purpose, and direction. Any organization or business that closes the door to others’ thinking or perspectives, is an organization or business that will not last.

It is crucial that leadership listens and takes heed to multiple perspectives. I have personally found that a plan can be missing multiple details and considerations, and without allowing others to share their opinions and thoughts about the plan, the plan might not have been successful. Leadership should surround themselves with people who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas freely and openly. Leadership should also keep an open mind and listen intently to all perspectives.

Eric Sheninger, a school principal, said it well when he said, “Effective leaders rely on the expertise of others regardless of where they are in the organizational hierarchy.” Smart, effective leaders are ones who allow others to be smarter than them, listens to wisdom and council regardless of position or age, and actively listens to their team. Perspective is everything. And when we deny the opportunity for others to share their perspectives, we close our minds to opportunity, wisdom, and possibly success. Lead in a way that welcomes the perspectives of those you lead. 

Leadership Is A Way of Life

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  I truly believe this should be the foundation for all leadership. I also believe this should quickly be followed with, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another” (John C. Maxwell). I truly believe leadership is about listening, learning, and lifting others up. This is why leadership is not a position one holds, but rather a way of life. It is a person who others would follow naturally, not because of a title.

People who feel valued and respected will follow leadership wholeheartedly. The question then becomes, how does leadership help others feel valued and respected? I believe value and respect should be one in the same. For example, I value my wife, and because I value her, I will do everything I can to show her respect by how I treat her. Value and respect are shown by how we treat something or someone. Consider the following: You buy a new car. You have high expectations about eating in the car, tracking mud in the car, and how others treat your car. You might even decide that you will park 3 or 4 spaces down from other cars so that you do not risk getting a ding on the side. Ultimately, you value your car and want to respect it because of its newness. But what happens after a while? The newness wears off, and your respect for the car also wears off. In fact, you might think it’s time for another new car. There are many examples I could use, but the point is, when something is new, we respect and value it more, but as time wears on, our respect and value seem to diminish. 

Because respect and value diminish over time, it is vital that leadership is in a constant state of reflection. Leadership is not perfect by any means, and people in leadership make plenty of mistakes, but it is what we do with our mistakes that determines our character as a leader. Another one of my favorite quotes relates very well with this, “Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous” (Confucious). In other words, we must always be in a state of reflection and be willing to learn from mistakes and errors. Learning is the process of trying and failing over and over to reach a desired goal. Notice, learning is a process. This is why “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  Leadership will not get it right on the first try, and if they do, it is a rare event. However, true leadership will reflect on choices and decisions, determine what was done well and what wasn’t, and then make changes to their way of thinking, their attitude, and their mindset. Afterall, leadership is the example everyone is looking at. 

Did you catch the important piece of leadership that I mentioned above? Leadership makes changes…to THEIR way of thinking, THEIR attitude, and THEIR mindset. You see, leadership is not about forcing others to think and believe the same way you do. That way of thinking is dangerous. If you don’t believe me, check out the German leader of WWII, or the tyrant king of England between 1760 and 1776. Leadership must constantly have an open mind, be willing to listen to those they are leading, and most importantly, be humble enough to admit fault and wrong doing. I believe this is part of showing value and respect to others. Nobody likes or respects someone who thinks they are always right. Nobody listens to someone who won’t listen to them. Nobody will follow a leader who is unwilling to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and make changes to correct THEIR behavior. Leadership is not a position, it is a way of life.

Ultimately, leadership is about how we treat others. Are we willing to listen with an open mind? Are we willing to humbly admit faults and mistakes? Are we willing to learn from our faults and failures and make changes to OUR way of thinking and living? Do we see ourselves as someone who must be followed, or someone who is ready to serve and help others? Leadership is a direct reflection of your character. As you lead, determine what kind of character you are leading with.