Thayer on Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing2 Comments June 2, 2007 / Posted in Mindful Leadership
For me the most influential thinker in expanding my thinking and my thinking on Leadership has been Lee Thayer. His latest book is the revised edition of Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing under the Mindful Leadership Category.
This book presents two kinds of challenges to your thinking. One is that much of the reality of leadership may be contrary to what you already “know.” It is often counter-intuitive. This is hard learning. Or, you may have had “experience.” So you assume you already “know” what you need to know. That may be true. But great leadership is not about knowing. It is about learning. And, since you change over time, and since no two situations are ever the same, it requires learning how to do it “better.” And better and better. The leader who is forever in the learning mode is the one most likely to succeed.
Lee was the consultant to Ralph Stayer when he was CEO of Johnsonville Sausage that was mentioned in Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence.
One of Lee’s quotes about the leader is: The leader has to be a virtuoso question asker.
Another: You don’t want solutions you want problems.
The reason is that in each set of solutions is the next set of problems that weren’t seen, thought of, or addressed. You want the problems that you want. The problem my daughter had a few years ago was: I have an early acceptance to Harvard grad school and a acceptance to Stanford grad school. Which do I choose? Now that is a problem I pleased that she had. You get the idea.
One of Lee’s thought-prodders is: We choose problems we can’t solve, rather than choices or decisions we don’t like. I’ll stay in this relationship rather than deal with… I’ll hold onto the extra 75 pounds rather than face…
The founder of The Executive Committee (TEC) fifty years ago, Bob Nourse is an example of going up the bore; facing the situation and doing what needs to be done to accomplish what needs to be accomplished:
I try to stay healthy without making a cult of it. Years ago I was overweight. I changed my eating habits, eliminated high calorie foods, and haven’t had to think about weight since. Forty years ago, when it took me ten minutes to clear my lungs every morning, I gave up smoking. I seldom have a cocktail but enjoy wine with my meals. I have a physical once a year and take my doctor’s advice when he tells me to be moderate in all things. I don’t hesitate to take medication he prescribes to relieve stress or sleeplessness. Mother lived to ninety-six and she took a “powder” every night of her adult life. I do five minutes of exercise for my back most mornings; and I walk a lot.
Some other of Lee’s prodders help you remember that how you think impacts your being, and who you are impacts your doing:
• What you can’t understand, you won’t understand.
• How people “understand” something is defined exclusively by what they do about it.
• If you are not a servant of your cause, you will be a victim of others’ influence.
• Interpretations are the only “facts” you will ever have.
• Not “truth.” Which interpretations are going to get you where you want to go?
• Never defend a “truth.”
• You have to believe something in order to see it. [Mental models]
• What something “means” depends on the question it answers…for that person.
• You do not see the world as it is. You see the world as you are.
• You cannot not “communicate.”
• Leaders refuse to be led by the “understandings” they happen to have of things.
• People do not learn from “experience. They learn from their interpretation of it.
You can also check out Lee’s blog at The Leader’s Journey