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3 Counter-Intuitive Strategies About Leadership

A lot is written about leadership… and a lot of it is the same. In this series, we want to share a few ways to think differently about leadership.

Enemies Make the Best Allies

When Abraham Lincoln needed to appoint a new Secretary of War for his administration, he convinced his cabinet that Edwin Stanton was the man for the job. Stanton, known as opinionated, stubborn, and proud, was a known detractor of Lincoln. The two had a history together and were not on the same side on many issues. Lincoln knew, however, that the position needed someone like Stanton to fill the spot and take control. Even though they were not friends, Lincoln saw what was required. The two worked together well, in spite of their differences.

Enemies can make the best allies. 

If we take the time to reach out to people we have our differences with, mending the broken fences, we might find someone who will take us further than we’ve gone before. Our new partners bring a different perspective. Anyone we give a chance, those who have been our enemies in the past, will see our worth and value. If we can overcome our stubbornness and pride to give a suitable position to someone we don’t agree with and who has been against us in the past, we will likely make an ally for life. People we grow to understand can become the people we love deepest. If we work hard to see eye to eye with other people, they can become our best friends and best allies as we face the future. Consider what enemies you have that you can turn into allies.

leadership strategies

Don’t Specialize

If your kid is exceptionally good at something, you’ve probably thought about how you can make sure they get even better at that. Whether they are a talented singer, a wildly intelligent academic, or a physical specimen that destroys other kids on the football field, you’ve probably looked for ways to improve their skills in those areas. We’ll get our kids to practice football twice a day with their team, hit the gym between practices, and work on their throwing or catching before bed. We put all of their energy towards dominating their sport or activity by training specifically in that activity.

Studies are starting to show, however, that if we want our kids to be the best at something, we should allow them to try their hand at multiple activities rather than just one. Athletes show more versatility and endurance when they play multiple sports in their childhood. Scholars show more promise when they have numerous fields of study or interest rather than one. We used to think that specializing in a particular area of study was the way to go. Now we see that generalists, people who have their hands in multiple things, have incredible potential.

Don’t specialize in your work or leadership. It’s good to get training in particular areas or to feel drawn to specific fields or areas of leadership, such as strategic planning or conflict resolution. We may think that our efforts are best used to take our top skill and focus all of our time and energy on growing and sharpening that skill. To get better at things, it does take practice, but too much training can be detrimental. We should read widely, pursue hobbies outside of work, and look for new experiences and fields of interest within leadership. Know your strengths, feed those strengths, but don’t specialize.

Spend Less Time at Work

Our culture says that the busier we are, the more valuable we must be as a person or worker. People place a high value on work and always being active or doing something when it comes to our professions. The first question people often ask when I run into them is if I’m keeping busy. When you ask someone how they’re doing, you are most likely to hear about how busy they are. The first thing many people talk about is how much they have going on in their life right now. While people say this with a level of tiredness and exasperation, there is pride there as well. When I hear that people are overly busy in life, or I see someone working consistently long hours at their office each night, I think they’re probably a lousy leader.

If you’re always busy, and proud of it, you need to stop.

You have to spend less time at work. The best leaders know how valuable their time is, and they take steps to recapture their time for things other than work. I’m not saying good leaders don’t work hard. It takes much work to reduce our hours. The best leaders know that we can’t give all of our time to work, trying to do it all by ourselves. When we work long hours, we rob our employees of responsibilities and opportunities. I think that leaders work too much because they don’t trust people, think too highly of themselves, or don’t know how to let go of things. I’m not impressed by people working long hours; I’m suspicious of their skills and motivations. Whatever your reasons are for putting in long hours at the office, you need to consider how to get your time back into your control. You need time for things other than work, and your work needs time from people other than you.

There you have it!  Three ways to think differently about leadership. Stay tuned for a few more counter-intuitive leadership strategies in the near future.

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