When it comes to leadership and management, nearsightedness or myopia is a common occurrence. What does that mean?
Since effective leadership is part art as much as part science, I see too many managers taking a nearsighted look at their role and responsibility. By this I mean we place more emphasis on the duties and responsibilities (the science) where policies and procedures govern and control the thinking. This happens while the more subtle aspects of leadership (the art) like communication and delegation suffer.
In your early years of management, you had a specific team with clearly defined duties to push widgets or turn cranks. Much of what gets done there is process or project oriented. Process is derived from principles and procedures. Get the process right over and over again, BAM! you’re a good manager. OK, hooray for you.
That kind of success starts to sink in, and you get swallowed up in a false sense of accomplishment. You figure if you keep doing that, you will keep getting bonuses and promotions. The nearsighted myopia creeps in.
You get so enthralled by the surety of your achievements as a manger, you never explore the more subtle art of becoming a leader. The success seems like Utopia. Why should you ever change?
Legalism in Life
There are other kinds of myopic behaviors I’ve observed in life. People everywhere subscribe to some new teaching (think child rearing – Dr. Spock in the 50’s v. now, the Littles). Teaching spawned by doctrines such as these generate disciples who would rather argue you to death than entertain an alternate answer.
That is myopia at its worst. Locking in on a belief like this can become dogmatic to others. The comfort that comes from the engrained beliefs creates the Utopia effect. I call it legalism: pure science, no art.
Growth as a Leader
Leaders, or people wanting to be leaders, must embrace a mindset for growth. Whatever your natural capacity is to lead (and we all have some capacity), you can grow beyond that level.
As John Maxwell cites, there is a Law of the Lid. Some call it the Peter Principle. We all have maximum capacity beyond which we struggle. The fortunate truth is we also can grow beyond that capacity.
However, the first step in growth is knowing there is something more. Myopic vision will never allow that. If you stay fixated on a comfort zone, you cannot grow.
The Key Question
The primary question to ask yourself if you want to be a leader is, who am I going to be? What will you be to those around you, the 360 sphere? How will you handle your team? How will you represent yourself to your boss?
When you begin to build a vision for the leader you want to be, you can set your growth targets on the attributes where you are the weakest. The traditional ways to begin growing are these:
Find a coach or mentor – someone who has been there before and who can come alongside to guide you through the growth process
Build accountability – Create your own personal board of directors with whom you seek counsel, bounce ideas, and get feedback.
Read – Reading cannot be encouraged enough. With so many great authors and thought leaders sharing ideas and insights, you simply must indulge.
Practice – Great leadership must be exercised. Practice every day. State your vision and demonstrate your intention to go that way.
Committing to grow as a leader requires intentional action. Dreams only go so far. You must put things in motion. There is a certain irony here. Think about it: if you want to be a leader but never execute any action, what kind of leader are you?
Above all, stay away from letting a myopic vision stop you from growing to be a leader.