Would you drive a car with your eyes closed? Of course not. Would you ride a bike blind-folded? I hope not! Can you walk in a straight line, eyes closed, with no assistance? I’ll bet you can’t get more than 20 feet.1 We need to use our eyes to succeed at these tasks. Most of us have been given the gift of sight and we use it, with varying degrees of effectiveness, to conduct basic as well as very complex activities.
Sight allows us to observe a variety of conditions and it has great benefits.
- Sight helps us see changes in the environment. (“It is raining. I need an umbrella.”)
- Sight allows us to detect nuances of a situation. (“Those are tears of joy, not sorrow or pain.”)
- Sight allows us to correct course and continue moving toward the target. (Try walking a straight line while blindfolded.)
- Sight helps to maintain motivation through persistent focus on the goal and direct observation of progress. (Loss of focus and lack of progress are powerful demotivators.)
Individuals who are effective in their roles and responsibilities utilize all of these elements. People who ignore one or more of the above severely limit their effectiveness. Those who cannot see work hard to develop techniques thtat compensate for their lack of sight, but they do NOT simply give up on the above elements.
This is a blog about leadership, not about the physical use and benefits of sight. However, I trust that the parallels to leadership are evident. Let’s be clear, though:
- Leaders must be able to see changes in the environment. (“My competitor just released a game-changing product.”)
- Leaders must be able to detect nuances of a situation. (“These employee comments are not about loss of market share, they are an expression of fear.”)
- Leaders must be able to correct course and continue moving toward the target. (Leaders and organizations are constantly hit from all sides and get pushed off course.)
- Leaders must be able to maintain motivation through persistent focus on the goal and direct observation of progress. (If a leader loses focus, the organization will surely follow suit. Seeing and recognizing success along the way helps maintain focus.)
In the context of uncertain economic and political conditions, and increasing pressure for leaders to initiate disruptive innovation and creative destruction, it is understandable that leaders do not always use their sight effectively. It is not excusable, though. Leaders have a high calling to see. It is often stated that one of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to develop and cast vision for the organization. Sight is what facilitates personal and organizational vision. If you do not exercise sight, you have no vision.
I would like to see your thoughts about the role of sight in leading. Also, is sight the most important leadership “sense”? What about feeling?
1: Fans of the show MythBusters might guess that I got the idea for this post from the episode Walk A Straight Line which aired on Discovery Channel on October 12, 2011.