Successful leaders have trained themselves to hold two opposing views or thoughts in their heads at the same time. They can do this without getting anxious, without panicking. They use this ability to creatively problem solve. They have disciplined their minds to learn how to think.
A case in point …
You supervise a creative, fun, young professional who you enjoy working with. This young person just did something stupid. She spent 100 hours working on a project for another department, unbeknownst to you. You now must engage her in a “what the hell were you thinking? conversation.”
Your heart says “mentor her, forgive her.” Your mind says do what your boss says “fire her.”
How do you lead in this situation? How do you creatively solve this problem?
Allow the tension between the heart and the mind to drive new thinking. The tension between the two opposing solutions forces you to get more data, to seek new information. Because this is actually a complex problem calling for a thoughtful decision.
Perhaps the employee is not the problem at all, maybe the problem is the other department leader. Perhaps the solution may be to transfer her to the other department or maybe you are over delegating and not supervising properly or maybe you should just bill her time to the other department. There’s not one solution. There are many possibilities. “Knee-jerk” decisions to save face or caving-in to your boss is not being a leader. Thoughtful analysis just might save the company money by not losing a good employee (while providing her with a good lesson), it may help you grow your relationship with your boss, and it may just wake you up to the weaknesses in your management.
Thinking is your job as a leader. You need to get good at it. MBA schools try to teach this skill. It’s not easy to learn. You have to practice it just like any other skill. And, that’s the rub. You have to practice in real time, on real problems, with real people, with real consequences.
So what can you do to be a better thinker?
Ask before you act. Always get more data.
You can only have a big heart if you have an open mind. Commit to learning how to think as a leader.
Manage your anxiety. Balance the tension between the heart and mind. That tension is always there when making decisions. Get used to it.