Leadership Thought: Is Your Myopia Your Utopia?

myopic leadership
This is a guest post by Doug Thorpe. Doug is a motivational speaker and John Maxwell Coach who helps individuals discover new heights in their own leadership ability.

 

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?

 

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” -George Washington Carver

 

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.

 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” -Wayne Dyer

 

The Key Question

How Leaders Create A Compelling Vision to Engage & Inspire

company vision

Lead With Vision

Leaders create a vision and engage a community to achieve it.

What does it mean to lead with vision?

It’s a question that authors Bonnie Hagemann, Simon Vetter, and John Maketa researched extensively, surveying over 400 companies in search of the answer.

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book, LEADING WITH VISION: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce.

 

Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?

Yes, of course.  Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.

The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability.  Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission.  He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed.  He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).

That statement struck me as extremely important.  Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that.  The power of it is immeasurable.  That is what visionary leadership can do.  It can unleash the power of the workforce.

 

Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.

 

The 4 C’s of a Visionary Leader

What’s your definition of a visionary leader?

A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state.  It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be.  That feels very risky for leaders.  It is stepping out of the norm.  There are certain things they will need to do.  In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs.  They must:

  1. Embody courage,
  2. Forge clarity,
  3. Build connectedness, and
  4. Shape the culture.

 

What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision? 

How to Live Eyes Wide Open in a World That Can’t See Clearly

sunglasses on a wood table. live eyes wide open

Live Eyes Wide Open

 

“Worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Helen Keller

 

If you want to read an inspirational story of triumph over adversity, of overcoming challenges, this is it.

Isaac Lidsky played “Weasel” on Saved by the Bell: The New Class. He graduated – at nineteen – from Harvard with degrees in math and computer science. He then went on to Harvard Law School and then served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor. His legal career had him winning all of his dozen plus appeals in federal court before he went on the start a tech company. Enough? No. He then went into construction and succeeded again. He also has founded a non-profit called Hope for Vision.

Wow. That’s an amazing track record of success in multiple fields.

All that success and he makes it seem so easy.

Then you learn that he was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare degenerative disease that caused gradual loss of sight and now blindness.

Isaac has learned to live with his “Eyes Wide Open.” His new book is called Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly. I found it a powerfully motivating read and followed up with the actor turned entrepreneur to learn more about his uniquely positive attitude in the midst of what would stop many of us in our tracks.

 

“Living with your eyes open and living eyes wide open are two very different things.” -Isaac Lidsky

 

Stay Positive Despite the Circumstances

You’ve been through trial after trial and continue to see success. How do you stay positive despite the circumstances?

In every moment, we choose how we want to live our lives and who we want to be, no matter what circumstances we face. There are always people who did far more with far less and were far happier doing it. So, it’s not our circumstances that govern the lives we experience. How those circumstances manifest themselves in our realities is within our control.

 

“In the face of great challenges, you can choose to live reactively as a victim, or choose to proactively take control, with awareness and accountability.” -Isaac Lidsky

Practice Intelligent Restraint to Drive Your Growth

Pacing for Growth

Chances are that you’re driven. You have goals, and you’re actively working on them. When you get to work, you’re off and running.

I know this because most people reading this blog are here for success tips to become better leaders and more successful. If you were lazy and drifting without goals, you probably wouldn’t be visiting.

As you push through obstacles, you likely don’t think much about the word “restraint.” In fact, if you do, you may think that the only thing that matters is removing all restraints so you can get to your destination. Fast.

 

“Never let others define what success means for you.” -Alison Eyring

 

That’s why I was drawn to the work of Dr. Alison Eyring. Her book, Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success, is about the balance between speed and restraint. I asked her to share some of these principles with us so we could learn from her research into what she calls “intelligent restraint.” Alison Eyring is the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, and she has advised some of the world’s most innovative companies on leadership and growth.

 

Solve Your Growth Challenge

How has competing in long-distance runs and triathlons impacted your approach to business?

Like all business leaders, I struggle to drive my business to perform today, as I also lead transformation for the future – all without damaging the business or my team. It’s so much easier to focus on just one of those things, but we have to do all three for long-term success.  My experience training for endurance races led me to discover a growth philosophy I call “Intelligent Restraint” that helps solve this growth challenge.

 

Can you tell us more about “Intelligent Restraint”?

Intelligent Restraint is a growth mindset that helps you build the right capabilities for growth at the right pace. Sometimes it means going slower, and other times it means going faster.

When you are training for an endurance race, you have to push yourself to go as far and as fast as you can but then no further so that you don’t get hurt or burned out.  In my book, I describe practical ways leaders can apply this growth mindset. For example, you can define and measure “maximum capacity” of the business and then create a plan to bridge the gap between current levels of performance and “maximum capacity.”

Another way leaders can put this way of thinking to work is by practicing what I call “Rules of Intelligent Restraint.” Like rules of restraint in endurance training, these rules help leaders drive growth in a way that conserves energy and can be sustained. My favorite rule is “routines beat strengths.”

 

“Routines beat strengths.” -Alison Eyring

 

Alison's 8 Insights from Endurance Training

  1. Always train for the right race.
  2. Don’t let any mountain defeat you.
  3. Be good enough when good is enough.
  4. Find many ways to maintain your own energy.
  5. Don’t spend your life doing only what you do well.
  6. Never let others define what success means for you.
  7. Be courageous and be humble; persevere and be willing to stop.
  8. Never be intimidated by anyone who looks stronger and faster than you.

 

Train for the Right Race

How do leaders find the right balance between the sprint and the marathon?

You can’t sprint and run long distance unless you’ve trained properly. A midfielder in soccer, for example, will sprint the entire game AND also run several miles. They’ve trained for this. On the other hand, if you ask a world class sprinter to run a marathon tomorrow, they might possibly complete a half marathon but they’ll be in tremendous pain.

As leaders, we need to train our business and our people for the right race. We all want to succeed over the long-term as a business, but there is seldom a long-term unless we can deliver in the short-term and have enough energy to keep going. Leaders who can practice the rules of Intelligent Restraint and manage energy strategically can achieve this.

 

“Focus overrules vision.” -Alison Eyring

 

Focus Overrules Vision

How the Secret To Success Lies in Just ONE WORD

The One Word Secret

My friend Evan Carmichael is passionate about helping you reach your full potential. His YouTube channel has millions and millions of views.

You never know where he’ll turn up around the globe as he speaks about empowering entrepreneurs. I interviewed him in Madrid, Spain where he shared with me 6 Entrepreneurial Lessons that all of us can use.

His first book is out: Your One Word: The Powerful Secret to Creating A Business and Life that Matter . The book is designed to help you find your personal motto and to narrow it down to a single word that represents your unique purpose.

I asked Evan about his new book and how One Word is transforming people’s lives and focus.

 

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word.” –Winston Churchill

 

Find Your Word

How do you find your One Word? What if you think of a few? How do you narrow it down?

That’s a loaded first question J The process starts by understanding that you—and everyone else—has a deep, core value that represents who you are, and the more you live your life in alignment with it, the more happiness, success, and impact you’ll have. Understand that Your One Word has always been a part of you and always will. It’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a lifelong resolution. People can often be prisoners of their current situation, which prevents real self-analysis. When thinking of your One Word, put it in the perspective of, “This is a forever commitment and who you always have been – knowingly or unknowingly.” To continue the process of finding your One Word, think about all the things, people, habits, and activities that have made you come alive in the past. Who was your favorite teacher? What is your favorite song? What did you love about your parents? Fill a page with happiness. Then next to each item, write down what specifically you loved about it. Mrs. Jenkins, your 9th grade science teacher, is your favorite teacher of all time for a reason. And it wasn’t just because of the material she taught in class. When you make the list of all the things that have made you happy and the reasons why, you’ll start to find a consistent theme among them. That consistent theme is your One Word. And once you find it, I’d challenge you to start designing your life around it so you can, with purpose, bring more of those happy moments in as opposed to randomly waiting for them to happen.

 

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” -Anita Roddick

 

Your Personality Changes, Your One Word Doesn’t

Recent studies show that personality changes dramatically from when we are young to when we are old. Does your One Word change over the course of your lifetime?

Your personality can change with time. You might get more conscientious as you get older or more agreeable once you’re raising a family. Some of what you value might also change. Early in life, you might be more concerned with promotions and career advancement. Later on, it could shift to health and relationships. But your core value, your One Word, doesn’t change. Your One Word is the lens through which you see the world. The way you approach and execute may change over time, but the foundation remains the same. For instance, one of the examples in my book is Mark Drager, a 30-something-year-old father, husband, and entrepreneur. His One Word is #Extraordinary. He’s currently focused on being an #Extraordinary father, husband, and entrepreneur. What he values most is being #Extraordinary. He doesn’t want to be ordinary. He wants to be more than that, in whatever he does. If he grows tired of business and puts a higher priority on travel or restoring old cars, or any number of things, his core value of #Extraordinary comes with him. It’s forever. It’s who he is at the deepest level. That’s why it’s so important to figure out and potentially the most important exercise you can do in your life. If you’re going through the process of finding your One Word and you fast forward your life to age 90 and you see yourself not believing in the same thing anymore, then you haven’t found your One Word.

 

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” -Tony Robbins

 

Believe