10 Ways Leaders Become ‘Grandmasters’

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Leadership is a lot like a game of chess.

Like a grandmaster in chess, the best leaders have an uncanny ability to look several moves ahead. They anticipate changes; some well down the road and adapt accordingly.

Watch a grandmaster chess champion in action and you’ll see what I mean. Unlike pedestrian players, like me, these players don’t simply respond to each move their opponent makes. Rather, they think ahead. They anticipate multiple moves their opponent might make and devise any number of responses.

“Grandmaster leaders” do the same. They think long-term. They anticipate multiple scenarios and devise appropriate tactics for each possible development.

Is there any of the grandmaster in your leadership? The following quick analysis should give you some idea…

1. Grandmaster leaders are rarely caught off guard.

– You don’t hear these leaders saying, “Wow, I didn’t see THAT one coming!”

2. Grandmaster leaders keep their options open.

– Like GLS alum Steve Sample teaches in his outstanding book, The Contrarians Guide to Leadership, these leaders don’t rush decisions. They take the time to consider all possibilities.

3. Grandmaster leaders think strategically, not reactively.

– Planning and execution mark their approach to leadership.

4. Grandmaster leaders are thoughtful.

– Juliet Funt reminded us at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit that G.E.’s Jack Welch would spend an hour a day simply thinking.

5. Grandmaster leaders are agile.

– They sense the shifting tides long before anyone else and adjust their course accordingly.

6. Grandmaster leaders are calm.

– You never see these leaders panic.

7. Grandmaster leaders are focused.

– The key to thinking several moves ahead is being relentlessly clear on the goal.

8. Grandmaster leaders learn from other leaders.

– Chess champions study other great champions. In the same way, these leaders are students of other great leaders.

9. Grandmaster leaders study trends.

– They use their knowledge of trends both inside and outside their organization to help plot future moves.

10. Grandmaster leaders learn from their mistakes.

– Like a chess champion, these leaders leverage every setback as a learning moment.

And so by all means continue to lead with all vigor on today’s challenges, but learn to keep a watchful leadership eye on what could be coming down the pike.

Because developing the skill of anticipation is the first step towards becoming a true grandmaster.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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