Deciding to be a leader requires a conscious commitment, and the courage and confidence to take it all on, to accept the mantle of an awesome responsibility for making decisions that affect the lives of others. Experience along the way helps as does study, reflection and renewal. Talking with others who are experienced leaders helps, as does taking time out for yourself to gain additional insights that make leadership easier and more joyful. That is but one purpose of the Santa Fe Leadership Seminars, to assist and support those who wish to move up the leadership ladder.
In a recent, early morning conversation with a relatively new head of school, he related that one of the first challenges he faced was to mediate a conflict between two administrative colleagues. Each had a perception that the other was the obstacle to getting certain things done, accomplishing stated goals and achieving a positive, productive working relationship. Appropriately, the head of school met with each one individually and then the two together and put all the proverbial cards on the table, honestly and directly, with the clearly stated expectation that each needed to accept what the job and roles required in addition to finding a way to work toward a more positive and productive relationship. One of the two made good progress within the next six months while the other did not. Eventually, it became clear that one was much more the problem than the other and was not in the right seat on the bus, to use a Jim Collins metaphor. He might have even been on the wrong bus!
Making an executive decision requires a bit more than using that part of the brain called “executive functioning” …”a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations…” (from the Encylopedia of Mental Disorders!)
If you are going to be adept at solving problems, and projecting outcomes, one of the three main functions of an effective leader, then it’s imperative that you have the ability to anticipate problems before they become even larger. You might even call that foresight, something beyond insight. The other two main functions of an effective leader in addition to solving problems are making things happen and taking a stand. Those were Nan Keohane’s three requirements of an effective leader. You might see how what you do falls into each of those three categories. It makes for an interesting exercise!