“When confronted with the unknown,” writes Margaret Wheatley, “we default to the known.” This single sentence is a powerful insight into the world of leadership, and it is a challenging one too.
Every day, people in leadership positions are confronted by complex problems and complicated issues. Every day, these same leaders try and figure out what is to be done next. Every day, they struggle to come up with unique and viable solutions.
The problem is that every day, they draw on the one known that has always helped them though challenges before, namely past experiences. Some times these past experience are helpful, especially if they are dealing with a known technical problem. Then, these leaders draw on their experience and move forward.
But 2020 has been a year filled with many unknown unknowns. We are the first generation in a long time who have had to deal with complexity of this magnitude. Our defaulting to the known may not actually be helping us move forward in an effective and resilient manner. Therefore, I believe we need to be mindful of our defaults and choose to create new solutions.
First, I think we need to slow down and schedule more time for reflection. Many of us have been attempting to move at the speed of light and solve all things in a hot minute. And to a degree, we have been successful. But the price is high when you do this month after month. Burnout or cynicism is inevitable.
However, when we take time to put down our cell phones, tablets and computers, we can pull back from the rush of minute to minute minutia and embrace the stillness. Here, we discover fresh perspective and insights. We can look at the bigger picture and figure out the trends around us. We grasp the wholeness and remember that life creates change through messy periods and quite a few troughs of chaos. Rather than being over stimulated, over worked and over scheduled, we can reclaim our calendars and our life, giving ourselves permission to think rather than to always react to everything and everyone around us.
Second, we need to seek out wisdom. And when we find it, enter into dialogue with these individuals. We can be physically distant and socially connected as a leader. It is in this space that we can think and share out loud our challenges. We can wrestle with big questions and big ideas to the point that we gain confidence about how to move forward.
This week, create time to step back from the mad rush to the next thing on the list, and schedule time to reflect, think, and plan. Then, seek out people who are sources of wisdom and engage with them on a regular basis. The combination of these two actions will be quite helpful over time.
Geery Howe, M.A.
Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in
Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change
Morning Star Associates
319 - 643 - 2257