Be a Leader of Ideas and Action Tips to Balance Two Powerful Leadership Traits

When the world-renowned Singaporean leader, Lee Kuan Yew, died this year, one of his greatest fans and exemplary journalist, Fareed Zakaria, said this of the beloved statesman:

“Men of great ideas are rarely also men of great action.” He added that Mr. Yew had both qualities, and in the opinion of Mr. Zakaria, this combination contributed to his huge success.

His short statement gives me pause. Do I excel as a leader in both areas? And more importantly, am I intentional to grow in both areas?

ideas and action

Dreamers and Doers

As an introspective person, my instinct is to reject that as a dreamer I may be lacking in the area of execution. But honestly, I have found this to be true. Dreamers, thinkers, and planners usually have a tendency not to act. After all action exposes our perfect dreams and plans to the mutilating forces of reality. So we tend to wait, and wait, and wait….for the perfect time or circumstances. Ususally, this leads us to inaction.

In a similar ways, leaders whose strength is execution usually do not excel in the area of dreaming and planning. They are often so driven to move, to act, that they abhor the idea of sitting still to think. It is painful and counters their pulsing worldview that if things are to happen, I must act now. And things do happen, but without dreaming and planning, the results may be limited, flawed, or ill-timed.

Which side of the spectrum do you find yourself? It is important to know your natural tendency. I am a dreamer. So I have to push myself in the direction of taking action. As I’ve tried to grow in this area, sometimes I overshoot the runway. I can get intoxicated with the promise of achievement, becoming so driven, I find I’ve neglected to dream and think.

My friend, thinking and doing are each powerful leadership traits. We must grow in both areas. Here are some thoughts on how we can do that.

Ideas

How do you become a thought leader, someone with profound ideas, an accelerated capacity to reflect and strategize, and the discipline to envision the big picture? Many leaders are so busy getting things done they neglect their creative thought life. But remember in the words of Sun Tzu, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought.” Twitter_logo_blue The battles of relationships, leadership, and life are all won in our minds first. Our thoughts, our ideas, our analysis, when performed correctly will produce the victories we seek.

Here are a few tips to keep ideas flowing:

  • Pursue personal growth. You cannot generate great ideas if you neglect to grow yourself as a person. Every person of great thought and ideas is focused on being a better version of himself.
  • Ask other thinkers. Spend time with people you consider to be smarter than yourself. See what’s on their minds, and find out how they nourish and protect their thought life.
  • Make time for intentional thinking. We are all busy. If we want to develop our thought lives and enrich our ideas, we must block time for intentional thinking.

Even though generating ideas is an area of strength for me, I still find the “urgent” demanding a right to my time. It’s not enough to have a strength in a particular area and assume it will be automatically utilized. We must be dedicated to our priorities and resist the pressure of outside demands.

Action

If you want to succeed, move while others are still thinking. Act while others are still pondering. Proceed while others are still deliberating. If taking action is not natural for you, you can grow in this area and increase your effectivity as a leader. Here are a few pointers I use to motivate myself into action:

  • Think of the future. Remind yourself daily that action will move you forward.
  • Notice action-oriented people. Surround yourself with people who get things done, and learn from them.
  • Go for it! Be willing to take a risk on yourself and on your ideas. Don’t let fear of failure keep you from taking action.

Let them say of you, like Lee Kuan Yew, that you are a leader of great ideas and great action.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

What I Am Reading Now: Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers by James C. Humes

For Further Reading:

Are You a Thought Leader?
Do Introverts Make Good Leaders?

 

 

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