What Does a Great Leader need? Time to think!

As a leader, you’re paid (and praised!) for delivering results. It’s all about setting an ambitious plan and then executing it. This requires action. Modern business life is busy and there’s often a barrage of unexpected events you have to deal with. This involves more action. Do you ever have a moment to reflect, to ponder, to think? It’s all very well investing time in action, but if you’re neglecting thinking time, then you’re heading for a fall.

Thinking leader

1. Be more effective

The world is not static. The great plans you make at the beginning of the day, week, month or year will, inevitably, need to be amended over time. However, stopping to consider the overall objective, and re-evaluating options, may lead you to an alternative approach that’s more appropriate as well as effective.

For example, imagine that at the beginning of the year you spent two weeks planning how you would launch a new service to your market. However, after three months, your closest rival launched a similar service before you. Whilst you could plough on with your existing plan, surely it would be better to stop, think about the impact of this new event, potentially revise your plan, and then pursue your new plan. You’ll be working much more effectively.

It’s also essential to make time to think in more ordinary situations. Before chairing the usual weekly meeting with the same old agenda, think about the core messages that you want to deliver and what you most want to achieve from the session. Give yourself time to be effective.

2. Improve efficiency

Explore alternative methods of working to improve your efficiency. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, doing the same things in the same way. After analysing the tasks you do most regularly, you may conclude that some of them are really non-essential ones, or that technology has developed, to allow you to achieve results far quicker than before.

3. Be alert to danger

Many of the companies that survived the recent recession did so because they took time to evaluate the new situation as it unfolded. This would have allowed them to consider the potential impact on their business and prepare for the economic storm. On a smaller scale, how many times do you think you could have foreseen, and avoided, problems on the projects you’ve implemented over the last few years, simply by stopping to consider potential risks?

4. Find alternatives

How do you respond to obstacles? One approach is to carry on regardless of them. However, it’s always more fruitful to take a step back, and consider all of the alternatives. Once you start doing so, you’ll always find that you have options and that there are different ways to approach the obstacle. With the right space to think, you’ll be able to pick the best path to success.

5. Spot opportunity

Of course, it’s not just risks and dangers that you see when you pause to think, it’s also opportunities. Driving plans through relentlessly without stopping to look around you means that you won’t see many of the opportunities that are just round the corner.

6. Get the right perspective

As a leader, you also need to keep in mind the Big Picture. How do all the pieces of the business puzzle fit together? Should you prioritise developing that new product? Is this the time to consolidate and focus on profit? The only way to make the right decisions is to see things holistically. Gain a perspective on your role as leader as well as on your business by occasionally distancing yourself from the job. Take time away if you are able, or book yourself no-contact time to really think.

Making time for thinking is vital. Not only will it keep you, as leader, fresh and invigorated, but it will also help you to be a more efficient, effective, motivating leader. In fact, you’ll become a better leader all round. It’s not easy to become a clear thinker, but it’s important to give yourself the space to master it. As recognised by Steve Jobs, “you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” That’s certainly worth thinking about!


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