The most important skill a leader possesses is the ability to think. Remember, when you were a student in school, your teacher always told you to put your “thinking cap” on? It’s still true; leaders must always have their thinking caps on to operate at their highest level.
Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and the thinker credited with creating the first manufacturing assembly line said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
A leader is always thinking because of what he just finished working on, what he is currently working on, or what he will be working on in the future. Leaders are paid to think thoughts that no one else has considered and to consider thoughts that everyone else has overlooked. Leaders must make decisions about the path to take and then they must move everybody along to get to the desired end state. A leader’s thoughts move organizations and people to take action!
How do leaders think? What do leaders think about? How are leaders’ thoughts different from their followers? A leader not only looks at the facts of a situation, he is also trying to figure out what the facts mean in the context of what he is trying to accomplish and more importantly, how to use the facts to his advantage to accomplish his mission.
I am always amazed at leaders who approach problem-solving by listening to the facts and then, proceed to develop a totally unexpected solution; this occurs because leaders think differently. Remember, a leader is a conduit of information, thus he receives lots of information which he has to digest, synthesize, and apply to dynamic situations constantly.
Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of International Business Machines (IBM) used the word “THINK” to motivate and inspire workers. A biographical article in 1940 noted that “This word is on the most conspicuous wall of every room in every IBM building. Each employee carries a THINK notebook in which to record inspirations. The company stationery, matches, scratch pads all bear the inscription, THINK. Mr. Watson even had a “THINK” sign on his desk so everyone who came into his office was reminded of what he expected them to do.
Why is thinking important?
- As a leader you must understand that thinking is your full-time job;
- Problem solving is a primary responsibility of leaders and focused thinking speeds up problem solving;
- As a leader you get tired of the same thoughts and ideas; remember dealing with mediocre thinking and ideas will keep you on the road to complacency.