Thoughtful Leadership: What is it?
Captivating title, right?
I may have misled you as I don't have the answer to the question–"Thoughtful Leadership: What is It?"
Over the years, thousands of theories have been developed, articles written, and courses led on thoughtful leadership. What I am offering here is an opinion about what can help with any type of leadership theory to which you ascribe.
What is Thoughful Leadership?
Self-awareness is critical to being a thoughtful leader. This means understanding yourself–your behaviors, motivations, morals, and values. Equally important is understanding your target audience–their behaviors, motivations, morals, and values. Finally, to be a truly effective leader, it is critical to combine these two things to create an environment that is cohesive, trusting and productive environment.
What is the Focus of Thoughful Leadership?
Thoughtful leadership is about creating a positive work environment where all team members feel valued and supported. Successful thought leadership requires you to be a patient leader that understands differing perspectives, needs, and values. In addition, great leaders consider all perspectives before making a decision.
A true thought leader inspires and motivates their team to work towards a common vision and goal. Implementing leadership sessions for the executive team is a great way to hone these skills. In these training sessions, you should focus on communicating effectively with your team, providing support and advice, and assisting in your employees’ growth to achieve company goals.
People often think they know themselves well. Internally, they understand what they are doing and the reason why. They believe that if they can explain or justify the reason, it makes sense to everyone.
However, we often find that others typically view us differently based on the behaviors they see.
Many years ago, I had an interesting realization based on this point.
My family was three hours into a long drive when one of our daughters asked us to take a Facebook quiz. The quiz made a number of statements, and respondents were asked to answer true or false on each. When I took the quiz verbally with my family and answered the questions about myself, the entire family argued that I was wrong! About myself! Then, we proceeded with the rest of the family, and the same thing occurred.
I learned that the way we view ourselves is often different from how others view us.
From a leadership standpoint, it is critical to understand themselves from an internal perspective and how other reliable sources view their behaviors and actions externally. Until a leader understands these perspectives, there will be some disconnect between the leader and their team.
Understanding yourself is a very important part of being a thoughtful leader. You can work with a leadership coach or executive coach to learn more about the practice of leadership, develop your leadership style, and understand how you can improve to be more effective in leading your team.
Working with a leadership coach or executive coach can help you learn more about effective leadership, how to develop your style, and how to be a more effective leader overall. Leadership coaching can reveal your strengths as a leader and where you might experience blind spots, like the example with my family above.
Leadership coaching can reveal your strengths as a leader and where you might experience blind spots, like the example with my family above.
It's also important for those in leadership roles to know and understand their team members by their actions, behaviors, and their internal “selves," such as motivations and values.
Just like the car ride with my family, leaders can learn a lot about their team members by learning what is motivating them underneath–the unseen portion of their personality.
Minimizing the perceptual gap between how the leader views a team member by their actions and how that team member sees themselves can empower both the leader and the team.
Your executive team can implement leadership conversations to learn what leadership styles are working and which need improvement. These conversations create an open dialogue between leaders and team members to gain a better understanding of each other's perspectives, as well as what behaviors are most effective in certain situations. It will result in more effective communication, increased motivation, and a positive environment where team members can thrive.
Putting it Together
Knowing yourself and your team members and developing your leadership skills are critical to become a thoughtful leader. But, knowing yourself internally and knowing your team members only by their actions leaves large gaps in awareness that can impair a team. That’s why you must gain a deeper understanding of your team members’ behaviors. Leaders should develop their interpersonal skills to learn more about team members' motivations and values and not just act on the behaviors they see from them.
If a team leader wants to be a truly thoughtful leader, they need to know not only themselves internally but also how others view their actions externally, as there are almost always differences between the two.
Assessments such as The Birkman Method can be invaluable in helping to minimize the gap between what you think you are like and how others see you and can be the first step toward being a more thoughtful leader.
About the Author | Carol Buckner
With more than 20 years at Birkman and a master’s degree in psychology from TCU, Carol is deeply invested in supporting our mission. Carol has three daughters with her husband, Ross, and you’ll always see her with a smile on her face. She especially lights up when talking about traveling, volunteering, trying new restaurants in Houston, and rooting for her favorite sports teams (Roll Tide!).