“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
If you’ve never heard of Simon Simek, I recommend you pay attention to some of his stuff. He is a maturing writer and speaker, and he is starting to build a movement of people who seek the courage to see things differently. One of his teachings is that we spend so little time on the “why” in both our personal lives and also in our work. We know what we do. Most of us know how we do it. But, only a small percentage know why they do it. And, an even smaller percentage start with the why, and then figure out the how and the what later.
His premise is simple: Most people start with the what. Then, they figure out the how. Last, they think about the why (at least, the deep-thinking people do). Simek says, instead of doing it this way, turn it inside out! Start with the why. Then, determine the how. Last, determine the what. Now, this is seeing things differently. However, think about how genius this really is. And, it was as simple as turning over the table. Not very difficult, just seeing something differently than others do (or have).
Great Leaders see things with a clarity that brings a mission into focus. They spend time thinking of ways to see things that other people don’t, can’t, or won’t see. Good leaders correctly use God’s gifts of both eyesight and insight to make their mark. A leader’s insight goes beyond the physical. It looks for the unknown, the space between the lines. What is underneath, but not seen. The visual that comes to mind is a small iceberg that has 10x the size of ice underneath it, under the water. The great leader sees the entire iceberg, rather than just the part that is above the water.
Great leaders must nurture and pray for the ability to see things like God sees them. This “non-physical” vision is more remarkable than even Superman. Great leaders “see things”, but they don’t always trust their eyes. Their instincts might “see” another thing, and they trust that more sometimes than even what their eyes are showing them.
I believe that seeing things from God’s perspective (which is certainly the ultimate insight) involves comprehending His plan and purpose for your life and for the story around your life. Even more insightful is understanding the eternal principles that govern God’s purposes.
Everyone sees the world through their own eyes. We believe what we see, and trust our eyes to reveal the world around us. In itself, there is nothing bad or wrong about this, at all. God gave us eyes to see, and there’s a very good reason for it. We take action and are able to survive based on sight. We naturally tend to avoid darkness for fear of the unknown.
Only at certain times do we express the need for better insight;
Mark 8:18 – Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
From my own experience and observations, here are some basic examples of what great leaders use their insight instead of their eyesight:
Great leaders see mistakes as an investment in learning (gaining wisdom – the ultimate asset).
Leaders know that occasional failure is inevitable. This does not mean they like failing. Quite the opposite, in fact – they hate it. However, insight allows them to see failure as a way of growing in experience and proper decision making (some call it wisdom). Learning from others’ failures is also certainly very important. You can’t go your entire life being stubborn and learning from your own failures because you reject wisdom from others. Even more wise – spending time and resources getting a deep understanding of failure and the causes of it. Studying it and intentionally learning from it. Then, taking those learnings and applying it to future actions. So intuitive, yet infrequently practiced.
Great leaders see each person as an individual created for a very special purpose.
Leaders see tremendous (often untapped) value in each person for his/her uniqueness and giftedness because they view them as persons who are endowed with skills and talents by God. People with unique personalities give leaders perspective, and great leaders know the value of those differences just like each instrument that goes into a world-class orchestra. We are all uniquely and beautifully created by a most loving and creative God. Great leaders know this and show great respect to it.
Great leaders encourage others to see things differently.
Leaders love and appreciate diversity with a deliberate and intentional understanding that everyone sees things from their own perspective. They see impactful value in the different vantage points of others. Leaders build a complete picture of their surroundings by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to participate – in their “sweet spots”.
Great leaders have tremendous situational awareness.
Leaders can “feel” that they are in harmony with their environment. They are aware of different communication styles, different learning habits, and different motivators. Leaders are keenly aware of diverse organizational perspectives like travelers who have different preferences on where to sit on an airplane, what kind of drink they like, and if they like pretzels or peanuts. Jesus taught us to “meet people where they are”. I think that is very simple, yet very powerful advice.
Great leaders see the past, present, and future as all connected and operating as one.
Leaders see themselves and their organizations as dynamic – never static. They see organizational cycles of life. They see patterns. They anticipate change. Leaders see changes in patterns before others and intentionally prepare for it. Leaders are not negatively surprised by change, nor are they threatened by it – they see change as an opportunity to proactively adapt while others fail.
I don’t find it easy to find time to think, reflect, and find insight on how to see things differently. I see two main challenges with this. Number one, it is hard sometimes to focus and quiet your mind. You almost need a sort of meditation state in order to really get some truly useful insights. Second, you need time and a quiet place to think in order to get #1. Here are some potentially useful activities in order to get yourself some time to “think”:
- Go for a long run or walk, preferably somewhere in unaltered nature.
- Go to the beach, lay down in a chair, turn off your phone, and close your eyes.
- Tour a museum or an art gallery.
- Serve others and get out of “yourself”. Do some type of community service.
- Go on a trip/change your atmosphere – visit one of the great cities of the United States, like New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Seattle.
- Draw pictures/color pictures with colored pencils.
- Climb a mountain.
- Plant a garden.
- Mow the yard.
- Read a fantasy book that is wonderfully creative, like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver, or The Phantom Tollbooth.
- Wander through a bookstore.
- Visit one of the great cities of the world, like London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, or Sydney.
- Pray (alone or with others).
- Listen, really listen, to great music.
- Go on a mission trip.
- Cook a recipe you’ve never done before.
- Bake your own bread.
- Go to the zoo.
Jesus absolutely saw things differently. There is no doubt in this, whether you believe in him as Lord or not. In fact, He saw God differently, which is the ultimate testimony to this. He gave us the truth and told the story of love and grace. This was definitely a different way to see God (especially in his time). He saw things differently, and they nailed him to a cross because of it. But, he was right. And, they were wrong.
There were two recorded stories of Jesus raising people from the dead. One was Lazarus (a famous story), and the other was “the little girl”. In these circumstances, Jesus resisted the word “dead”. He instead said they were “sleeping”. Which, must have sounded crazy, until they started walking around….
His sermon on the mount included the phrase “blessed are the poor in spirit”. What?? The poor in spirit are blessed? How can that be? This guy is nuts! But, Jesus saw things differently. He taught us that the people who admit their sins, understand and mourn sin, repent humbly to God, and ask His forgiveness are forgiven. In this way, they are totally and completely blessed. They are living in the kingdom and not in the world. Good works are not the way to escape God’s judgment. Jesus taught us this very clearly. There are many more examples. The fact is, this topic is very easy to relate to Jesus since his entire ministry hinged on a different perspective on God (and life, both the life on Earth and the everlasting life). I can’t think of a more impactful leader (Jesus) in history who saw things differently.
Are you able to see things differently? Are you afraid to? If so, why? Are you afraid of being judged or rejected by others?
Great leaders are not afraid. Jesus gave us the ultimate example.