Independent Leaders?

From over thirty years of research, We see that still today only 5% of respondents indicate that ”Independent” is an attribute they most look for in a leader.

There is plenty of justification for that low rating. After all, people seem to want their leaders involved, engaged and connected, not acting aloof or going off on their own. There are no doubt differences in the definition, but a number of people I have non-scientifically polled say that “independent” sort of conjures up a Lone Ranger type of picture, vs. a collaborative member of a team.

However, there is an off shoot of that word that is important for leaders. Independent leaders may not be so popular, but leaders who are independent thinkers are vital today. I have a sense there are many people who are content with groupthink, or going with the flow, instead of deep, reflective thought. It is certainly easier to listen to a so-called expert or person of power, and simply agree. That seems to be the status quo in politics, but it is certainly not the best approach for leaders, given the challenges confronting all of us these days.

Four of the most important words in a leader’s vocabulary are “what do you think?” Smart leaders know they cannot possibly have all the best answers, and they need to integrate the thoughts and ideas of the talented people around them. When they do ask that question, leaders are not merely asking, “what have you heard, or “what is the most popular opinion being bantered about.” Instead they are seeking thoughtful comments, based on some diligent analysis and personal reflection.

Leaders also ask “what do you think,” to the person they see everyday in the mirror, and then are courageous enough to answer themselves truthfully. Your purpose as a leader is to lead, not just to agree with a point of view simply because it is convenient. It is through independent thinking that more innovative solutions begin to surface. And we all know the problems we are dealing with today, require some truly creative solutions.

Never allow yourself to simply default to other people’s points of view. Make up your own mind and be willing to share your thoughts. You can still agree with those others and often will. Just be mindful that you do not always have to. Your thinking and conclusions will never be absolutely right on every occasion. However, your thoughtfulness and independently conceived perspective can only benefit those who see things in a different way. And that convergence of different thoughts is what often leads to breakthroughs.

Keep thinking and leading.

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