Leading Blog






03.29.13

Six Ways to See the World through New Lenses—and Lead More Effectively

Leading Forum
In their book From Smart to Wise, Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou state that wise leadership succeeds where smart leadership cannot. Wise leadership isn’t about how smart you are. It’s about “transcending it and gaining a broader perspective.” Importantly, “That perspective enables us to rein in our smartness and harness it to serve a larger purpose in an ethical and appropriate manner.” Here, the authors share how to develop that perspective:

How we see the world—our leadership perspective—shapes our thoughts, decisions, and actions. That perspective is based on the sum total of our knowledge, experiences, and choices up till now. It represents the way we view ourselves and situations, how we judge the relative importance of things, and how we establish a meaningful relationship with others and everything around us.

Lots of leaders are smart, but few are wise. Smart leaders view the world through lenses that skew or limit their perspective, affecting their decisions and actions. Some focus on short-term goals and on deepening their depth of knowledge in their domain of interest. Others have a long-term vision that enables them to differentiate various patterns and see how these will help them succeed. Both perspectives are limiting.

When they remove those lenses, smart leaders gain a broader perspective, which gives them the opportunity to become wise. By changing their "smart" perspective and cultivating practical wisdom instead, they can lay the foundation for a wise leadership style that's more effective.

With the wise leader perspective, one is able to continually reframe and reinterpret events through integration and find new meanings within a rapidly changing context. Guided by a noble purpose, wise leaders cultivate a flexible and resilient mindset that helps them act and lead with wisdom--and become more influential leaders.

To move from a smart leader perspective to a wise leader perspective, start by seeing the world through new lenses. Here are six ways to do it:
  1. For a new view, move outside of your comfort zone.
    Getting outside your comfort zone is a quick way to experience leadership from a new perspective. In early 2000, while awaiting the court decision in the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, Bill Gates decided to step down as chief executive and focus on his passion for software. This jolted his perspective, and that same year, Gates and his wife established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, taking his leadership in an important new direction. Where is it that you are holding on to an old and unworkable mindset? What extreme step you can take to experience and lead yourself differently?
  2. Know your limitations, and try to see beyond them.
    Senior managers at Allianz Global Investors, a global asset management company, attended a workshop called Dialogue in the Dark, led by visually impaired trainers who conducted the entire workshop in total darkness. The goal of this experiential learning program was to shift leaders' perspectives by making them aware of their limitations, while increasing empathy for others. What is your biggest limitation of today? How did you get to have it and how do you plan to transcend it?
  3. Take off your glasses and look through fresh eyes.
    Sometimes, shifting one's perspective is as simple as really seeing what's in front of you. When Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford, the company was losing market share and facing deep losses because of increased competition and globalization. One day, when walking through the Ford parking lot at Detroit headquarters, Mulally suddenly noticed the hodgepodge of Ford brands that had no common attributes in shape or style. This moment of clear-sightedness led to Ford's trimming its bloated portfolio of 97 models to just 20, selling off Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin in the process, and focusing on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. What do you need to "unlearn and let go of" so that increased focus on what you have could make you very effective and successful?
  4. Let crisis spark an epiphany and change your outlook.
    Crisis can spark epiphanies, so pay attention to what your next crisis has to teach you about perspective. While in a WWII German concentration camp for three years, Victor Frankl realized one day that although the Nazis could torture his body, they had zero control over his mind or spirit. This empowering shift in perspective helped him survive and then to inspire his fellow prisoners to take control of their own mindset. What is the fear that you are attempting to run away from? How do you pay attention to it so that you can walk through the other side of desperation and discover something very new?
  5. Seek out unlikely connections and juxtapositions.
    Ophthalmologist Dr. Venkataswamy created a revolutionary approach to curing blindness in India by studying McDonald's. He was able to develop a high-efficiency, standardized, repeatable business model that organized patients in operating rooms and broke the procedure down into a series of discrete processes so that nurses and doctors could quickly move from one patient to the next. His company, Aravind, is now the largest eye care provider in the world. What unlikely metaphors and connections can help you come up with an innovative mental model and a business model for your work?
  6. Let talks and books inspire a new perspective.
    The CEO of a well-known tech firm attended a talk on service-oriented organizations, including the generosity-driven Karma Kitchen, where anyone can eat for free in exchange for committing to volunteer in the restaurant in the future. He was so inspired by the talk that he acted completely out of character and drove straight to the hospital to spend four hours at the bedside of his 80-year-old neighbor. When did you last get inspired by a talk or a book? What actions did you take?

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Leadership
Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou are coauthors of From Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom. Kaipa is a CEO advisor and coach and a senior fellow at the Indian School of Business. Radjou is an independent strategy consultant and author of the NYT bestseller Jugaad Innovation. Both based in Silicon Valley, they write popular blogs for HBR.com, speak and consult internationally, have been featured prominently in the national business media, and are esteemed thought leaders in the field of leadership development and innovation. Learn more at www.fromsmarttowise.com.

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