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Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact

Smart Leadership

THERE’S power in choices. Yet we often don’t think about them. We operate on autopilot. Of course, not all choices are equal. Some matter more than others. Some are trivial or routine, but then there are those that change course for you, your team, or your organization. In Smart Leadership, author Mark Miller calls these Smart Choices—those that have high impact and require the most from us and most influence our futures.

Assuming you have the character and skills to lead, there is one more crucial ingredient required for you to reach your full potential: Your choices. Your choices determine your impact.

Smart Choices make Smart Leaders. Many factors come into play when making Smart Choices, so it is helpful to have a default way of considering them. To this end, Miller has outlined four Smart Choices to apply when faced with high-impact decisions.

Smart Choices

Notice each choice, successfully made, leads to another choice—a virtuous cycle. The individual choices have inherent value, but the real power is released, and your impact multiplied, when you make all four choices.

For each of these choices, Miller gives an overview and then goes deeper with specific practices in a couple of follow-up chapters for each question.

Smart Choice #1: Confront Reality
To Stay Grounded in Truth and Lead from a Position of Strength

Without the truth, you have no place to begin. You could end up anywhere. Seeking the truth is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Reality is always changing, and we must know where we are in relation to it.

Your current reality is not your destination—it is only the starting point. Never be fearful of your current reality—embrace it, learn from it, and get ready to take action. What is true today does not have to define your tomorrow. It is only where you must begin.

To begin to define your current reality, Miller suggest that you first define the universe. “Make a list of all of the areas in your life where it would be really good for you to have a crystal clear picture of your current reality.” Then start with the person in the mirror—“a hard look at your performance and the way you lead.”

Smart Choice #2: Grow Capacity
To Meet the Demands of the Moment and the Challenges of the Future

Growing your capacity is how you bridge the gap between the reality of where you are and what you need to do to get there. Expanding your capacity is the path to your maximum potential.

You must make time to lead. “Margin is not natural.” You need to create it.

Margin—the time and space needed to reflect, assess, think, create, and plan. Do you have time and space for these critical activities? Without them, you will forever be reacting, like a ship without an anchor or a rudder.

Capacity includes not just skills but your mental, physical, and emotional energy. Miller challenges us to “pick one of the energy boosting strategies (hydration, sleep, relationships, recreation, etc.) and make a commitment to yourself to incorporate the practice into your daily routine for thirty days.”

Smart Choice #3: Fuel Curiosity
To Maintain Relevance and Vitality in a Changing World

Curiosity fuels learning and your relevance. Miller suggests to rediscover your creativity, ask more and better questions, spend time with diverse and talented people (strangers), experiment, and read.

Asking questions is your best tool. “Questions to a leader are like a pickaxe to a frontier miner. They can serve as your primary tool to unearth the nuggets of truth and insight you seek.”

“Curiosity is rarely welcomed, particularly in a season of success. ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ is a popular refrain from the many short-sighted, ‘successful’ leaders.” We have to avoid the success trap.

Smart Choice #4: Create Change
Create Change Today to Ensure a Better Tomorrow

Change puts all of these choices together. Change takes your vision and makes it a reality. Miller writes about the ability to “see the unseen.” “If you are a leader, you need a vision. You should always have a preferred picture of what you are trying to create.” Keeping a vision alive means backing up from the daily challenges of your job.

Leaders mired in distractions and encumbrances of any sort cannot effectively and efficiently Create Change. How could they? They are just trying to survive.

Leaders understand to their core that they are ultimately accountable for their ability to channel the resources, activities, hearts, and minds of people to create a better tomorrow.

Acknowledging that change is hard, Miller reminds us of the tools of change we have at our disposal. Tools include passion (“it is the kindling to start the fires of change”), accountability, goals and measurement, values (they drive behavior), planning (must have credible plans), communication (we under-communicate the vision perhaps by a factor of ten), and recognition.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to choose. Looking at our choices through the lens of these four questions will help us to choose wisely.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:37 PM
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