In a recent post in the HBR titled: Want to be an outstanding leader: Keep a journal? https://hbr.org/2016/01/want-to-be-an-outstanding-leader-keep-a-journal? the author suggests keeping a personal journal and also taking time off for periodic reflection. We fully agree with these suggestions. Here are some additional thoughts:
A Leader evolves to be one by gathering ideas (Self and that from others), integrates them into a solution and leads a team to achieve and enjoy the benefits of such solution. Hence by inference every leader and in any field is a Knowledge Integrator, capable of thinking of problems or opportunities as a system: The Whole is larger than the mere sum of its parts.
There are three levels of System Thinking in any leadership role:
AWARENESS of the big picture (at this level any form of knowledge and information aggregation is very useful; Maintaining a personal diary or journal is one such tool; it offers a structure or discipline for knowledge aggregation.)
ANALYSIS: This is the next level of System Thinking for any leadership role. Some times this analysis of data and information is personal, some times it is collective. A good leader finds ways to push every one to this stage. Most will resist it as the tendency will be to just supply information and wait for orders. Such task oriented persons can never be a leader, no matter what their title or assigned role is.
Moments of peace and introspection are ways in which a leader separates himself from the mere tasks and engages in analytical reasoning that connect the dots, to see the big picture – how the whole can become larger than mere sum of the parts.
SYNTHESIS: Few, Very few ascend to this level. The synthesis is an outcome of analysis. While Analysis offers an answer to the “Why?”, synthesis challenges the leader to inspire the self and others to ask “Why not?” and then find the answers.
For details on the three levels of System Skills for a leader: