Your mind is the most powerful tool that you possess. It can shape you through your thinking. It can travel far in a blink, transporting you through memories and imagination.
It is also your biggest weakness. It can distract from the here and now and can create a bias that impairs decisions. Every career - in the world of business or otherwise - progresses in complexity over the years. Usually, the progression also shifts from being individual contributors to taking responsibility of teams or groups.
Empowering your mind with the right lenses can help with focus on the right behaviours that bring success in life and career, by guiding you and those being led. Here are the five ‘leadership lenses’ that are needed:
This lens helps when the focus is on others. You develop this lens through experience in informal groups, as parents or as an older sibling, and formal teams. The intent is to exercise influence and guide others towards a collective and beneficial goal. It involves developing your social awareness – empathy and compassion become invaluable.
Sometimes it will require you to step in and establish a vision; on other occasions, it will demand leading by example. The impact of this is measured by the success of others. Aim to use this in all settings when with other people.
Leading as a practitioner
This lens is relevant for sports, science, arts and the corporate world. The focus is an orientation towards ‘occupying the space’ as a practitioner or expert. You become someone who is an inspiration to others in the domain.
Aim to use this lens only when dealing with the domain alone. If used in other situations such as leading teams or business, it becomes a stumbling block. Once you have honed this, be watchful so as not to become a one-trick pony. The impact of this lens is measured by how much you have contributed to the progress of the field as a practitioner.
Leading a business
Whether running a small venture as an entrepreneur or managing a large business, you are responsible for crafting success for customers, investors, suppliers and employees. This lens demands that you focus it on all stakeholders, without succumbing to own interests – the hallmark of good governance. This lens also requires you to deliberately stay away from using the ‘Leading as a practitioner’ lens. The impact of this is measured by the success of your stakeholders first and then the business.
You have a place and role in society and need this leadership lens to succeed. This lens requires you to defocus from everything else – self, teams, domain and business. This demands a focus on the larger good, guiding everyone towards the common goal of a better society and a better planet. Acquiring this lens requires becoming comfortable with the absence of formal titles or responsibilities and orienting yourself for the long-term impact that you create – a better planet for future generations.
The focus of this lens is inwards, on yourself. This helps you develop and assert greater autonomy. It is extremely important in careers like sports and performing arts. At later stages of life and career in other fields, this helps focus on your physical and mental wellness –develop a fit mind and body to lead yourself before you even attempt to lead others.
Aim to spend 2-3 hours a day strengthening this lens. The impact of this is measured by personal growth in capabilities.
Leadership is not about a job title or imposing one’s will on others in a position of authority. Neither is it the same as management. It is also not about being the most charismatic person in the room.
Some of the best examples of leadership are of individuals who did not have a position or title, yet they managed to influence and guide others. Once you realise this, you begin to see that true leadership is knowing when and how to focus on yourself and others.