Leadership and Observation

Leadership By Observation

Interpretations are limited when we have not sorted through observations. In this post we look at the process of Leadership By Observation.

In my last post, I shared a definition of Leadership. I spoke about Observation, and having a Curious attitude. I’d like to further unpack some thoughts around Observation. It’s like washing clothes. But more on that later.

I think I know

I love reading (sight and audio), walking along nature trails, movies, and conversation. These activities have words, images, and other types of input to my senses. This input makes up a portion of my observations. My ability to relate and emphasize on an emotional level impacts my observations as well. Add in my past shallow or in-depth knowledge, and now I have layers upon layers of complexity in my observations. As if this were not enough, my ability to focus heavily strikes at the notion of what clarity in my senses.

What do others observe

In sharing my activities with others who indulge in the same and with some who don’t, I share, and we compare our observations and interpretations. We agree and disagree on the meaning of what is taking place. 

Observation: Blind Men Describing an Elephant

Often, if we can stay curious in our conversation, we get to a point where we become aware of our observational differences being the root of our interpretational disagreements.

I read a story as a child about some blind men. Each had a different description of an elephant based on the part of the animal they touched. Only by comparing their observations did they determine that something bigger was going on.

Reflections allow me to learn

Curiosity leads me to reflect on what I thought I knew to be accurate. It allows me to take the time to look back and reassess. This allows me to strip my feelings, knowledge, and prejudices from my observations. I don’t discard them though. They are crucially important when it is time for understanding the meaning that is taking place. The practice of reflection makes your observations sharper, keeps you in a learning mode, and rewards you later with more possible meanings and possible actions to use experimentation. Options are in important in leadership and even allows us to look at problems from all sorts of angles.

Leadership By Observation

My clear purpose is to learn from my observations to the extent I can from my activities. Engaging others curiously to learn what I may miss or affirm what is sure. Risking embarrassment knowing I don’t have the answers while embracing the opportunity to lose ignorance. My conclusion: Leadership takes place in a fuller observation experience by engaging others in a reflective and curious state of mind. Especially with those who are different and disagree with me.

The reference to a washing machine is an example that shows when you include similar and different clothing, as in soliciting various observations, there will difference born out of engagement or as in a washing machine cycle, agitation. These cause entanglements. But like the washing machine, if we commit to the cycle, everything will come out in the wash.

Wash, Rinse, Spin, Rinse is not just great for clothes, it helps us to come clean and ready for wear or to do Leadership.

How do you lead by observation?