by Michael Holland    

What happens when you read Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, a book about President Lincoln’s leadership of his purposefully diverse cabinet, followed by C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, a transcription of radio shows communicating the common and basics beliefs of Christianity?  Collisions in the mind that stretch the boundaries of common thought and (hopefully) make your head hurt a bit.

Leaders get stuck in ruts of how to behave and end up as only “somewhat effective”.  They work in discrete business functions most often encompassing the fields in which their careers began.  So the CIO was once a programmer, the CFO was once an accounts payable clerk, the VP of HR was once a recruiter, and so on.  This insulated, functional career approach limits the availability of collisions of the mind as these leaders question less and less of what can and can’t be accomplished within the business function. Unfortunately, they come to think they are good leaders when, in fact, they are just adequate managers who have a depth of functional knowledge and big, bad job titles.

Great leaders develop creative thinking skills and leverage a curiosity of how things could be, how individual talent could be developed, what teams could accomplish.  They tease their brains to think in abnormal ways.  They read books and articles from extremely disparate sources.  They seek out assignments and roles in a variety of business functions and companies where they can test their leadership mettle.  The resulting collisions of thought, experience, and wisdom create a unique leadership competency.

Great leaders develop creative thinking skills and leverage a curiosity of how things could be.

Challenge yourself to be a better leader by seeking collisions in your personal development. Start by reading disparate books in succession and letting your mind ponder the collisions of thought.  Tease your brain to think in abnormal – healthy abnormal – ways.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • In the second-to-last paragraph, this Leadership Learning Moment gives several examples of how you can stretch your mind as a leader. Are there other ways (in other areas of your life) that you can create collisions of thought to help you grow? Try to think outside of the box.
    • Do you think stretching your boundaries outside of work (like taking a dance class with your spouse, or volunteering regularly at a food pantry) would benefit you as a leader? If so, how?
    • Make a bucket list of things you’re going to do to create collisions of thought in your life. Include things both at work and outside of work… and stick to it.
  • Do you know a leader who seems stuck in the rut of  his (or her) too-big title of manager? How can you encourage them to grow?