How confident are you as a leader? Are you confident enough to listen with an open mind to people whose opinions or perspectives may differ from yours? Perhaps that’s not what you think of when you hear the word confidence. Perhaps you think of someone with a strong conviction, who is absolutely convinced that they have identified the right approach. I’m certainly not suggesting that confidence and conviction aren’t important in a leader… but maybe, just maybe, we are directing them toward the wrong thing.
I have a strong conviction in my organization’s mission, and I am confident that we are and will continue to positively impact many lives because of that. Those are big picture Whys and Whats, and things that leaders should be confident about. Where we get into trouble is when we assume the “How” we have identified is the only way to get there. Sure, the “How” we are proposing may seem like the best solution from our perspective… but if the Why and What are really that important, wouldn’t a confident leader want to know how others see the situation? To, in Stephen Covey’s words, “seek first to understand”? Are you, as a leader, committed enough to your Why to entertain the notion that a perspective different from your own might be the best way to get there?
I was recently struck by a comment from an interview with Cameron Davies where he noted, “I used to have a boss at Disney who would say to me, ‘If you only hire people within your industry, you’ll never be smarter than anybody else in your industry.’” If you want to stretch beyond what you have accomplished in the past in pursuit of your “Why”, are you confident enough to seek out people whose experience and approach may be different from your own? True, you may listen with an open mind and still decide that your original approach is best given the circumstances… and if that is the case, you can be even more confident in the chosen approach precisely because you have considered a variety of perspectives.
I’ve written before about growth mindsets and how they can help move your organization forward. As noted by the Neuroleadership Institute, fixed mindsets try to “prove” the value of something, whereas growth mindsets are about “improving” to reach a lofty goal. A confident leader is one whose desire to improve is stronger than the urge to prove… who is willing to consider multiple perspectives and acknowledge that sometimes seeing a situation with new eyes can lead to new solutions…
It is an approach to leadership worth striving for. Of that, I am confident!