Using Different Perspectives as a Leader
- Gate-check your outlook via perspective.
- Share an alternative perspective with those you lead.
Imagine taking off in an airplane on a dreary overcast day — or perhaps it’s even raining. I’ve experienced this a few times, and I don’t much like it. But after getting knocked around as the plane lurches upward, things begin to lighten up. The clouds thin, and suddenly you find yourself gazing out the window at a beautiful azure, sun-filled sky. It feels like you’re just floating. No more bumps. Smooth flying.
At this point, if you turn your gaze downward, you get a bonus. Those turbulent clouds look beautiful from above. This is the point, when I’m in this situation, that I suddenly feel a transformation inside. Just a few moments ago, my emotions were matching the day: dark, dreary, lethargic and even sad. But now, I literally feel light as air. I’m flying. My mental status (and, daresay, my joy) is soaring.
It was my perspective (of course!). Thanks to a modern jet airplane, I’d suddenly been given the ability to see what was on the other side of those clouds.
Let’s pause for a moment and examine this phenomenon. It’s still the same day. I have the same to-do list. My worries about the economy, my project teams, my health (everyone’s health per COVID-19), my partner, my children, my car’s air conditioner that just went on the fritz — all still there. The world is still dark and overcast. But this flight has given me a critical reminder: there’s always another side to every cloud and to every story.
Sometimes we just need some help remembering.
So go back to that airport scene in your mind. Imagine sitting there that morning, mentally exhausted, wondering how you’ll make it through another day. If you’re like me, you’ve never studied meteorology. However, we’re certainly smart enough to know that there’s a beautiful sunny day above those clouds. But how often do we pause, gate-check our outlook and view the day through a new perspective? How often do we share that new perspective with those we lead?
I’ve just restructured a graduate leadership course to include a “leading during crisis” module. I’m incorporating several excerpts from Korn Ferry CEO, Gary Burnison’s COVID-19 communiques regarding leadership and perspective. In early April, he posed a great question:
Pretend it’s the future. COVID is past, people are working, and we’re feeling somewhat normal again. Then look back to today and ask yourself, “Instead of worrying so much, I wish I had used that time to_______________.”
That time between now and our post-COVID (or COVID-adapted) future is what we need to look past. As a leader (in your business, your classroom, your volunteer work, your faith community, your home), perhaps the most important thing you can do is reassure your people by providing an alternative perspective and reminding them of the view above the clouds so that they can use this time well.
To whom might you ask this question? Whose outlook can you improve today? Who needs someone to simply remind them of the beautiful blue sky that’s just on the other side of these clouds?
For additional reference / reading: Burnison, Gary (April 5, 2020). “There’s always a way.” Korn Ferry marketing correspondence. https://www.kornferry.com/
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