More than a few Leading Thoughts’ readers have asked me about the tactics that most shape me as a leader. Here are the top ten:

 

  1. I ask a lot of questions. I do this particularly when something negative has happened. My interest isn’t morbid. I’m just eager to learn what principles I can draw from the experience of others to apply to my own leadership.

 

  1. I read books about great leaders. Usually these books aren’t about leadership but I draw leadership lessons from them. This is possible because history teaches principle by example, so you have to know the story in order to capture the principles of great leadership. So, I read history voraciously.

 

  1. I constantly ask for feedback. I pull together friends who are leaders and ask them to tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly of how I lead or speak or handled a given crisis. I build feedback into my business.

 

  1. I seek out mentors. If a friend is great at marketing, I’ll ask him to spend a lunch or two with me teaching me what I don’t know. I’ll offer to pay. I just want him to mentor me for a couple of hours. I’ll take it from there. I’ve done this five hundred times in my life and I’ve given the same to others.

 

  1. I build feeder systems into my day. Right now, I watch Donald Miller’s new Business Made Simple Daily video each morning. It’s two minutes long and it’s brilliant. I stay on top of another dozen such coaching emails and videos. Small doses. Smart content. Easy to digest and apply. My motto in this: Stay smart but move fast.

 

  1. I think. Somebody else might say they meditate, but I don’t want to be confusing. I’m not talking about a spiritual practice. I mean I take time in my day to stare out the window or at a bookshelf and think about something specific. Solutions come. Peace settles. Energy for solving problems rises.

 

  1. I make lists. Sounds simple, I know. My lists, though, are reflective lists. What do I need to improve in a given area? What undone work haunts my last thoughts at night? What is an important change I can make this week? What are the last five bits of advice I received? Now what were my goals for 2019 again? Most of this is done on airplanes and Ubers and on an iPad late at night in bed. Down time. Reflective time.

 

  1. I stretch my perspective. I travel, of course. I sometimes watch foreign films. I often read gay or Marxist or ISIS or female or existential or futurist literature—anything that is other than me and my world. I spend a lot of time with people not like me. I force myself to see the world through “foreign eyes.” It stretches me. It broadens my ability to perceive the new.

 

  1. I look at the world through a leadership lens. I don’t read the news to confirm my biases and gripe. I read it and then think about the kind of leadership that could solve the crises of our time. What would I do if I was Turkish President Erdogan’s number two? How would I advise Israeli PM Netanyahu? What would fix the inner cities? How would I coach a given leader?

 

  1. I rest. The best ideas I’ve ever had came in leisure time. They came with an unencumbered mind, a cool breeze, and no demands. They came when my mind could float.