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Transparent Thinking: A leadership tool

Do you ever find yourself trapped by the thinking that’s going on in your head? If you are like me, there are often a number of divergent thoughts – and it’s unclear which one to say out loud.

What holds you back? I know, you don’t want to look a fool. Or, if you say that – your team might think you have lost it or have no idea what to do next.

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So, instead you say nothing.  This is not leadership.

Leadership is about taking the initiative and risking what it takes to let people inside your head.  Transparent thinking is something I’ve learned while teaching in the Leadership Minor. It’s an effective strategy if…

You want more engagement from your group. Leadership is about the ability to engage others in the discussion.  Making space and place for others to show up and offer up ideas and opinions is a staring block to getting things done.

You want to cultivate trust in your group. People don’t take risks, unless you – as the Leader will take a risk.  When you can put out an idea, even if it’s not fully formed or perfectly thought out, you are training your group to do the same.  This lack of a “filter” is helpful when it comes to experimenting with ideas or new solutions.

You want to make sure people know there can be more than “one right solution.” Letting go of the “right” way or “THE” way of doing something will encourage others to explore multiple perspectives and possibilities. The best advice I got while building my business – now celebrating 10 years (shameless brag!)  – was to “build the plane while you fly it.” In other words, perfection stops progress.  The notion that there are multiple strategies is…freeing.  Allowing yourself to take the next “best” step is…liberating.  Getting yourself into action allows you to gather data, assess and then make the next “best” move.

I remember in a heated conversation with my leadership class I leaned in and said, “I’ve got about 5 thoughts going through my head and I’m not sure I know which one to say out loud.”

By doing this I tried to recognize the “heat” that was building in the moment.  I wasn’t about to solve it. This would not have been the type of leadership needed in this moment.  The group needed to know they were resourceful and had the skills to take on this conversation without me (someone with power and authority) having to “rescue” them.

How comfortable can you be at sharing what’s going on in your head while not having to shoulder the burden of fixing it all? 

Transparent thinking is one of those leadership tools that takes practice.  And it rarely is ever perfect.

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