Leaders who discipline themselves to look at the world around them with an open mind stand on a balcony where they are better-positioned to see windows of opportunity.
From this vantage point, they can see new pathways and patterns that will lead them down the road to success.
They sense the winds of change and spot storms on the horizon.
They have the ability look at the big picture and take in the whole landscape, as well as a talent for drilling down into the details where they may discover hidden opportunities.
The open-minded leaders’ unique perspective helps them and their teams adapt fluidly to the forces around them rather than being caught off guard by unwelcome surprises.
The challenge that most leaders face is that they’re so bogged down by their daily demands and urgent deadlines that they can’t get above the fray to look at things from a broader, more open-minded perspective. It’s a trap that’s very easy to fall into—one that catches everyone from time to time.
There are two facets of putting open-mindedness into practice as a leader:
- Keeping an open mind when solving problems, evaluating decisions, dealing with change, and addressing current business issues.
- Being mindful, informed, and impartial about the things happening in the world that may have broader or longer-term implications.
Sometimes being open-minded is just a mental discipline that leaders need to develop. However, it often also requires leaders to invest their time and energy, and to take a break from the daily routine.
In order to gain a better perspective, leaders need to step back, do some research, and think deeply about what they learn—and all of these things take our precious time.
If you are currently trying to develop this skill-set (or simply need to refresh your existing skills), here are some simple suggestions that may help:
- Find a time and place where you can avoid distractions and disruptions and deeply think through an issue you are facing.
- Alternate between periods of thinking intensely about the issue and letting your mind rest. This will allow your ideas to incubate.
- Seek to understand the broader impact that issues, problems, and ideas may have. Don’t stop with the first, most obvious solution you encounter.
- Think through the pros and cons and be aware of the full range of possibilities.
- Consider contradictory ideas and different points of view.
- Think through the long-term consequences and potential ramifications.
- Collect information from a variety of sources to help you fully understand what it is that you’re considering.
- Try to see the whole of the situation you’re confronting rather than one aspect of it.
- Know when to convert thinking into action. This will help you avoid “analysis paralysis.”
- Be patient. The answers you seek may not be obvious or come right away.
Open-mindedness unleashes people’s creative potential and improves the likelihood they will achieve the results they desire. We have nearly unlimited potential—we just have to harness our own genius, embrace different possibilities, and have the courage to look at things in a different way.
If you follow the suggestions above and work to increase your own open-mindedness as a leader, you’ll see that it truly has the power to make a difference for you, your team, and your organization.
“There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.” –Charles Kettering (Inventor)