“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau
Nowhere is this more profoundly true than with respect to leadership.
If you want to spot the leader in a group, just present everyone with a set of information, and watch what happens.
When you present a bank of statistics, most people will look at the numbers. Leaders will see opportunities.
When you present a graph, most people will look at the lines. Leaders will see the trends.
When you present a room full of people, most people will look at the individuals. Leaders will see the potential to form a team.
When you present a profit and loss statement, most people will look at the bottom line. Leaders will see the potential for growth.
When you present a meeting agenda, most people will look at the items for discussion. Leaders will see an opportunity to cast a vision.
The point is, no matter what is presented, leaders just see more. And your ability to lead well will usually begin with your ability to see beyond the mere data and to envision possibilities and potential.
Many years ago my then 10-year-old son and I were planning to go outside on a Saturday afternoon and play soccer. But as we stood in the living room looking out the window at the rain pouring down I glumly announced, “Too bad. It’s raining.”
But perhaps channeling his future leader my son said brightly, “That’s okay Dad. This means we can stay inside and do a puzzle.”
We were looking at the same information, but he saw something entirely beyond what I did. He saw potential for more.
And that’s what leaders do.
This week you will be presented with the same information as everyone else around you. You’ll be presented with spreadsheets, profit and loss statements, meeting agendas, and various metric reports.
But as a leader you won’t look at the information the same way as everyone else does. You will intentionally see far more.
Because it’s not what you look at that matters. For leaders, it’s all about what you see.