If you’re a leader, you should be developing other leaders. It’s the single-greatest investment you can make because it produces the single greatest return. Nothing helps an organization like more leaders; in fact, I’ve never once had an organization tell me, “You know, John—we just have too many leaders.”
In order to develop leaders, however, you must understand them. Good leadership requires a perspective shift; you must go from seeing things through your leadership lens to seeing things through the eyes of those you lead.
So how can you, as a leader, acquire the perspectives you need to better understand your people?
- Learn Perspective Thinking
When I first started out in leadership, I expected everyone else to adapt to my way of thinking. I wish I’d done the opposite—trying to think the ways others did would’ve helped me avoid a few mistakes! Learning to approach an idea or opportunity through someone else’s mindset is helpful because it allows you to appreciate their view of things, and then lead them from where they are instead of trying to lead them from where you are.
Where they are as an emerging leader is often a place of looking forward. As I began thinking through things in this way, I quickly learned that many people struggled with insecurity, so I gave them confidence. Many people longed for a bright future, so I gave them hope. People wanted to be understood, so I gave them a listening ear. People wanted to be included, so I asked them for their thoughts.
I knew what to give my people when I learned to think from their perspective.
- Practice Perspective Seeking
It’s one thing to try and think like your people; it’s another thing to ask your people what they’re thinking. As I’ve grown in my leadership, I’ve developed the habit of asking the leaders on my team for their perspective and takeaways after significant meetings or events. By listening to them, I not only learn how they think, I get deeper insight into other areas, like the leadership dynamics of a room, or the effectiveness of our communication.
When I’m developing a new leader, I’m especially keen to ask for their perspective first. It allows them to share without feeling the pressure to affirm my thinking. Then, once I’ve heard from them, I can share my takeaways, and perhaps teach them something that will help them go further in their leadership journey.
- Engage in Perspective Coordinating
The final thing I do when I’m developing leaders is coordinate the different perspectives that my leaders give me. After allowing everyone to have their say (including me), I’ll then go back around the table and connect the dots—pointing out how one team member’s ideas relate to another’s. Then, I’ll tell them how those ideas connect to my own thinking, and to the vision of the organization.
When I do that, I’m trying to expand everyone’s vision and perspective. I want to sharpen their leadership thinking and come up with a new shared leadership perspective. Once I’ve done that, I’ll ask how this new perspective can make us better collectively and how it can make us better as individuals. It prompts everyone to process the ideas and think broadly—not just through their own filters.
When you as a leader—and the leaders you’re developing—can see things through the eyes of others, you’ll know maturity as a leader is starting to develop. The power of perspective is an intentional discipline. It takes time and commitment, but it creates an understanding between you and the people you lead that allows you to move forward, faster—and with increasing success.