Over many years in leadership positions, I’ve observed excellent people become overwhelmed and breathlessly run through each day with a foggy perspective on what they’re truly accomplishing. This disorientation robs energy and creative spirit from which all great ideas come, and leads to personal disengagement.
It’s crucial we learn how to regularly rise above the frenzy and replenish our perspective, leading to smarter work and a spirit of empowerment and purpose. Following are a few methods I’ve found beneficial over the years. The methods are not a replacement for company strategic planning exercises, but rather an augmenting personal philosophy for each day.
Pursue clarity. “Leadership is more about clarity than it is about control,” said psychiatrist and author Mark Goulston. We are not victims of whatever initiatives organically arrive at our feet. Rather, we have an ongoing responsibility to pursue team clarity in underlying objectives, necessities and alternatives. Don’t lose the plot along the way: periodically step back and refresh on where we’ve been, are now and are going. I’ve frequently witnessed this discipline recalibrate expectations to something far superior and more achievable, all while energizing team passion. Discern personal motives and emotions to reveal the factual crux. Ask others for their counsel. Watch false choices stemming from myopic thinking. Know that questioning and creative brainstorming are essential to smart productivity and a success journey.
Manage the chaos, don’t let it manage you. Pause, rise above, and prioritize projects and tasks. Iterate this frequently for your team’s initiatives (twice per month works for me). Make your prioritization and resources case, and then communicate to achieve shared priorities. When needed, stand to say “no,” or “later.” Keep problems in perspective. Smart leadership is about leveraging resources as wisely as possible; resources will always be limited and so tough priority choices will always be required. We either prioritize thoughtfully as we run the business, or the business will run us. And finally, show gratitude and celebrate the progress achieved by others, as gratitude is nourishment for perspective and makes it all worth it.
Stay connected to your purpose. Remain cognizant of your transcending company or leader purpose. Never lose sight as you and your team engage initiatives, and always know how your initiatives triangulate to that purpose. Keeping connection to purpose will result in a more passionate, engaged team and is medicine for the overwhelmed. Know that commitment to purpose is commitment to a journey, which will assuredly become hazy and rocky at times. That’s normal, and why challenges are worthy. Stay attuned to your purpose, and it will help you meaningfully navigate with perspective.
Know you’re not in this alone. Remember that great leaders work through people for impact. Sure, they make direct contributions, but their greatest impact comes from connecting, engaging, inspiring, mentoring and empowering others. “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit,” said President Ronald Reagan. Any worthy journey is about something greater than ourselves. Step beyond ourselves and into the wider perspective of serving success in others. Partner. Be encouraging. Share credit. Celebrate the success of others. This will help ensure perspective while also expanding your resource base.
Balance goals with realities of the lift. Excellent leaders align their teams for success, not failure, and have wisdom to discern the difference. They have optimism and high standards, but know that making impossible goals out of ignorance or weakness will disillusion the team and squash passion. This requires strength to see and speak the truth. Leaders are not simply charged with the frenetic “get things done,” but also imparting perspective to foster a sense of calmness and direction. Keep perspective on what we can and cannot control. Keep perspective on what is truly needed in resources and time, and make your case. And on the way to great, don’t let the great become the enemy of the good.
In confrontation, rise above and respond with thoughtfulness, wisdom and self-control. All leaders experience stressful discussions. In fact, great leaders encounter more. When we do, we should keep perspective on our own emotions, honing our self-awareness. In times of confrontation, make a conscious effort to rise above and exhibit thoughtfulness, wisdom and self-control. As we prepare to engage, let us momentarily consider how we’ll view our reaction weeks after, thus yielding a less emotional perspective as we consider our higher self.
Why is perspective vital for leadership? Because it helps us see the truth clearly. Because it empowers us. Because it helps us prioritize precious resources, especially time. Because it drives our teams out of the fog of helplessness back to the open spirit of passion and creativity. And because it’s essential to retaining talent and sustaining organizational success.
Tim Strickler is CFO of Communications Electronics Inc., a regional wireless communications company based in Timonium, Maryland. A York County resident and former finance executive at The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., he can be reached at email@example.com or 717-870-8547.