The Duck Test
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
Maybe . . . maybe not.
Faux Gras > Faux Naif > Faux Pas
Certain leaders glance at a situation, believe they understand it, and put a name to it. Then they act without a moment’s through or hesitation. These overconfident leaders trust that their intellect and experience has prepared them to rush in and resolve the problem. They believe their guile and instinct will allow them to overcome whatever obstacles stand in their way. They presume this daring management style is how to succeed.
Spectators of this behavior might call it responsive and decisive leadership. Many more witnesses would call it reckless and dangerous arrogance.
When a leader assumes an immediate grasp of any situation and reacts to it based solely on their “gut” instinct, those around them should be wary.
Leadership decisions based on superficial stimulus and paltry data are rarely reliable and seldom sustainable. A leader who has conviction only in their personal understanding and experience cannot help but taint the decision-making process.
Reactive action that springs from personal bias and an insular perspective hinders a leader’s ability to make viable longterm decisions. By selectively responding to their historical reality, they cannot address the factual challenges confronting them.
An aware leader addresses a situation’s current status and offers a balanced response. They maintain an awareness that this does seldom resolves the issue. With this in mind, they mindfully seek to understand the true essence of the situation. Only then will they undertake a full resolution. To do otherwise is imprudent.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
It is natural to assign labels to things, positions, people, and situations. Wise leaders will do it with great reluctant. Still, if assigning labels is necessary, they take great care in doing so.
Names and descriptions require accuracy. This calculated precision permits everyone to focus on the truth. It allows clarity untainted by personal or cultural bias. It provides neutrality without predisposed judgments or alternative facts. The goal is to see things as they are, not as they were, or as one might wish them to be.
Knowledgeable leaders understand that assigning names carries a risk. Once a thing or project has a label, it becomes a separate entity. It stands alone. And this isolation is an illusion.
An enlightened leader appreciates that decision-making is not conducted in a vacuum. It cannot be quarantined. That is not how the world works. Nothing is segregated. The environment is interactive, adversarial, and competitive. The world is one. Everything is connected.
Great leadership demands that decisions are not exclusive or based on a narrowly defined reality. Choices cannot be made on superficial appearances, grand titles, or demeaning epithets. True leaders resolve to scan beyond the surface and perceive the situation in its entirety. Only then can they decide the best course of action.
To have success interacting with the situation, by whatever name is attached to it, the wise leader commits to diligently gaining of a full understanding of the true situation. Their goal is clarity.
A reputable leader takes time to examine the situation’s distinct characteristics. They study the personal nature of their rivals and partners. The knowledgeable leader investigates how various organizations, administrators, and methodologies interact with the environment. They consider needs and desires, and how it responds when sticks and stones are hurled at it.
A mindful leader looks beyond the illusion of names. They view things clearly and objectively. They can then act from a position of knowledge and conviction.*
*To do otherwise would be “Daffy”