When we were small children, our parents thought we didn’t need to do it, so they did it for us. In school, our teachers tried to help us understand it and teach us how to do it. When we were teenagers, no one thought we did it at all! Even as adults, it is an enigma to many. As leaders, we need to do a lot of it, and we need to do it well. What is this that both follows us and seemingly escapes us throughout our lives and careers?
Many of us may have heard this from a parent or even a boss. As we mature, our thinking changes – or at least it should. The same holds true for those who advance up the professional ladder. Of course, the objective is for us to be as mature a thinker as possible at any given age or stage in our careers. However, there is an art and a science to leadership thinking.
Thinking like a leader involves more than just the difference between strategic and non-strategic thinking. There are several layers, if you will, that build on having the ability to think in leadership thought patterns. I call them thought patterns as we all have established patterns in our lives from which we tend to operate on a daily basis. Some of us have the pattern of the Drama Queen Pattern, where everything is a four-alarm fire. Some of us have the Ostrich Pattern where we ignore, run, or hide from thinking about and facing challenges. There’s the Ignoring Pattern where we think that if we just ignore it, the challenge will soon go away. Finally, there’s the Blaming Pattern where we blame others for things that do or do not happen. Leaders do not operate – or think – from any of these foundations.
When you think like a leader, you build on patterns that you develop throughout your life. Some of those patterns are below.