Leadership Problems: Clear Thinking

Clear thinking leads to decisive action. Too many leaders, however, rush to judgment and act before really examining the problem from all perspectives. In today’s organizations, if you’re dealing with simple and easy solutions, then you’re missing something. Problems are multifaceted and complex.

As I mentioned in a post last week, problems are both technical and adaptive, a concept that comes from leadership expert Ron Heifetz. A technical solution is found when the problem is solved by doing something differently. But most problems involve people and require a shift in mindset. For that to happen, you need an adaptive formulation of the problem.

As Einstein said, the formulation of the problem is as important as the solution. You need to see the problem clearly in all its complexity. Leaders need to see and understand the people who have the problem so that they can achieve clarity and find solutions that will last.

As well, however, good leaders don’t get lost in the details. They are able to see patterns and priorities and focus on what matters most. The bosses I’ve worked with who are good at this can take a deep dive into problems, yet come up with tough decisions that seem simple. They proceed with courage and boldness. If they’re wrong, they admit it, learn from it and shift plans. Bad experiences will inform you each time your thinking isn’t clear.

How do you develop clarity of thinking? Practice, question people, explore other viewpoints, discover other perspectives and ways of thinking. I’m intrigued by common errors of thinking, for example. A click over to Wikipedia reveals an overwhelming list of cognitive errors and biases. Get to know which ones you engage in.

Cognitive biases describe the many distortions in the human mind that are difficult to eliminate and that lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation. Some are beneficial, for example, because they lead to more effective actions in given contexts or enable faster decisions.

The more aware you become of your thinking errors, the better you get at clear thinking. But this is not easy mental exercise to do by yourself. I suggest working on clear thinking with your executive coach, otherwise, your best thinking will bring you the same results.

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