“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.
A second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.
A first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
Most leaders know the pace of their own thinking. They also know a portion of their role is to get out ahead of the current situation and offer visionary thinking. Often, their ideas require those that follow them to think at a matching pace, make the necessary transition from “what is” to “what will be”, and be ready to support their leadership in a timely fashion.
Whether you’re leading a business, a team, or the proverbial “horse to water”, you may discover that you’ll only be as fast as the thinking of your slowest-thinking follower. This relationship produces a phenomenon I call, Leadership Drag.
People who follow decisive thinking leaders generally fall into three types:
Whoa Thinkers and
Developing a clear understanding and appreciation of how each of these thinking styles impacts your leadership ability can help you determine the best ways to approach, cultivate and unleash the thinking styles of those you lead.
Do you know what kind of thinker you are?
Do you know what kind of thinkers are found in the people you lead?
Join me as I explore the three thinking styles of the people you lead.
Have you ever led a committee seeking a solution to a nagging problem? Perhaps you’ve noticed that only a few people in the group are doing most of the “heavy” lifting while a small portion remain tacit and untethered to the outcome. These people are No Thinkers.
No Thinkers are not people who respond to every new idea or suggestion with a “No”. No Thinkers are people who have simply chosen not to think about something until they have little or no choice at all.
No Thinkers provide the maximum amount of friction creating Leadership Drag. Their extremely passive behavior ultimately limits your ability to lead. No Thinkers require extra energy on your part just to elicit and understand their thinking so you can build a consensus around your idea.
Many of these No Thinkers manage to exist on a plain of self-limiting thinking. It is not that they do not think at all. They are, from time to time, great and fervent thinkers. What dominates their thinking is inability. Particularly, the inability to think outside the box or take risks. They lack the ability to be original, decisive and energetic. They seek and find comfort in waiting to see “how the wind blows” before expressing either their support or opposition.
Most people develop their thinking style based on experience and confidence. For a certain number of followers, embracing life as a No Thinker is a quiet, comfortable, risk-free existence. The less they express, the less is expected of them. The less they offer, the less they have to defend. It is not uncommon for most No Thinkers to have had their ideas diminished, belittled and dismissed by a leader insensitive and disrespectful of their passive style. This is not a follower’s dilemma, it is a leader’s problem.
Pastor Andy Stanley said, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” If you’re leading No Thinkers, think of ways you can minimize friction and decrease their effect on Leadership Drag by non-judgmentally listening to what they feel and seeking ways to help them express themselves about your ideas, those of others, and even their own.
In every situation there is always a person who sees their primary function as the “voice of reason”. This type of thinker is a Whoa Thinker. Whoa Thinkers have their greatest influence on Leadership Drag through their verbal tendency to “slam on the brakes” of progress. In many cases, they are fervent champions of “change avoidance” and defenders of the status quo. Whenever and wherever change is proposed through strategic leadership thinking, you can count on Whoa Thinkers to righteously proclaim there is no need to “rush” into something. “What we have is working so far, why change it?” is their rallying cry.
While Whoa Thinkers are not hesitant to share their thinking, their highest drag potential can be found after consensus has been reached. In their last-ditch effort to avoid the perils of the unknown world of “change”, they will go “all in” in an effort to thwart fast leadership thinking.
Although they may not have ultimate decision influence, they are still a faction of followers that a leader must learn how to integrate into their thinking strategy. Offering Whoa Thinkers the earliest opportunity to voice their thinking can go a long way to helping a leader get out ahead of potential objections and other opposition thinking. Also, offering Whoa Thinkers a visible seat at the table can provide an opportunity to allow them to embrace ownership and responsibility for change initiatives as their own instead of feeling they are victims of progress.
Is there a downside to enthusiasm? Of course, there is. Enthusiasm, while an admirable quality, can have a tendency to cloud and distort rational thinking.
Go Thinkers are wonderful supporters of leadership thinking. They rarely question a leader’s judgement, preferring instead to maintain close ties with the leader through a confidential and strategic relationship.
While Go Thinkers usually have high levels of self-esteem, they can, at times, be blinded by their own brilliance. When engaging with a Go Thinker as a leader, you should think about stepping back and taking a more candid look at what a Go Thinker is really saying to you. Are you hearing honest appraisals of your ideas or aggrandizement designed to further elevate the Go Thinker’s confidential status?
As a leader, Go Thinkers are important for you. But you should also be aware that blind allegiance can expose a leader to the “Emperor’s Clothes” syndrome. Hence, in your leadership role, you must learn how to temper the thinking of Go Thinkers by allowing yourself to integrate their thinking along with that of the No and Whoa Thinkers you lead.
LEADERSHIP DRAG STRATEGIES
The best strategy for working with No Thinkers, Whoa Thinkers and Go Thinkers, with an eye toward limiting their opportunities of creating Leadership Drag, is to encourage their participation by providing a judgement-free zone in which they can feel safe flexing their “outside-the-box” thinking skills. If, in the end, these thinkers oppose or disagree with the majority thinking, make an extra special effort to applaud their contribution. Leaders need to know, and their followers as well, that it is okay to agree to disagree. This is the adult approach to the world we live in. It is a major strategy in limiting conflict and keeping those you lead focused on the “big picture”. Leaders who cannot convey this attitude will find themselves leading from behind. Ultimately this will cause you to become a pusher of your ideas rather than having them be attractive opportunities you offer.
Leading others can be an awesome experience. Don’t let it slip away by turning a fantastic opportunity into a drag.
Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on how you’re thinking about achieving the possibility of your promise. Also, I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for future posts in this blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz