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Thinking Like a Leader: Three Big Shifts

change-brain-thinking-think-thoughtLeadership development often focuses on doing — the mastering and use of certain desirable skills and behaviors that concretely show someone to be leading. Competency-based models can provide lists of such skills, as well as attributes of their practice. But where leadership effectiveness really starts is with thinking — adopting a mental model that makes it possible to acquire those skills and demonstrate those behaviors in the first place. Mastering leadership thinking can be challenging, but it is absolutely essential. I may adopt the exact stance and handgrip of Jordan Spieth, but I’m unlikely to win the Masters — while there may be a (wide) gap in our athletic abilities, there is an even larger one in our mental capacity for the game of golf.

Leadership thinking can be learned but is difficult to teach. It is a matter of asking questions and presenting challenges that help someone discover the mental model that enables their “best leader” to emerge. It requires not just competency, but demonstrated proficiency. And proficiency only comes with practice, feedback, and analysis. Journaling and other reflective exercises are good for processing and absorbing both successes and failures. As Peter Drucker said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

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