Strong leaders benefit from objective hindsight with a balanced consideration of current, and future environments. Then they need the courage to take action toward visionary goals.
During a recent panel discussion I watched to panelists get into a testy debate. Finally one of them turned to the other and told him to stop looking backward to claim threads of success and point fingers of blame. Instead, look forward and take action toward a fresh vision with goals for the future.
To this accusation, the other explained the past teaches us valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t. He implicitly suggested his antagonist was reckless to proceed without understanding what went wrong and why.
Some leaders defensively support decisions, actions, beliefs and results despite clear evidence of shortfalls and/or unintended consequences. Other leaders hesitate to take action when the outcomes are unknown or unpredictable.
Alone, these perspectives are myopic, and often become obstacles to healthy discourse and collaborative solutions. Combined they can shape a vision for initiating adjusted action plans and chart a course for progress.
So on one hand we have a leadership style that discounts or ignores lessons from the past, only to proceed for the sake of trying to make “progress.”
On the other hand, we have leaders who believe past performances are accurate predictors of future outcomes despite new information, changing conditions and different environments.
The collision of these two approaches leads to gridlock. Does this sound familiar?
The current political climate is replete with examples of these contrarian positions. Ideology, it seems, prevents some leaders from objective, humble and realistic reflection. Other leaders struggle to embrace and pursue the art of the possible.
Great Leaders must humbly acknowledge successes as well as failures; compromise to establish shared goals; then collaborate on solutions using best practices based on collective experiences and wisdom.
The same principles hold true for business leaders. If a leader considers only one perspective, he or she limits his or her options. Instead a leader should be acutely objective and open-minded to data, results, mistakes and best practices — even when these challenge self-imposed convention and beliefs.
Here are some obvious or not-so-obvious collaborative leadership tips:
Monday-morning quarterbacks consider progress to date by analyzing and/or criticizing decisions, actions and results from Sunday’s game with no plan to proceed. Passive leaders find progress in maintaining the status quo to sustain levels of comfort and predictability.
Maverick leaders view progress as the frontier to be fearlessly (recklessly?) pursued without deference to considered experience.
Strong leaders, however, realize progress is a continuum. They objectively reflect on performances and outcomes.
They critically consider and integrate best-practices with current conditions. Then, with visionary discipline, they put plans into action, measure results, adjust accordingly, and drive toward results.