We often picture a leader at the helm, charting the way forward through known and unknown waters.
They stand forward and provide direction. They anticipate and they solve complex issues. So, it might be a surprise to fathom that an outstanding leader is also an astute follower.
People are able to place exponentially greater trust in the leader when they are closely following the human system that moves the whole ship, in this case the organisation. Seafarers often look to the sky to read weather patterns; leaders look to the human system as their ultimate guide.
Through the organisation and its people, data is being continually transmitted. Like reading atmospheric conditions, meaning can take its own time to become known. Good leaders listen. They question, and then tolerate not finding the answer until the patterns are clear. Instead of judging, they wonder. They ask, “What is this telling me as the leader? What is the whole system asking me to do next?”.
When leadership is practiced in this way, we don’t jump from problems to solutions but from sensing to insight. The leader moves away from unnecessary, complicated and even pointless trauma for the system and into deeper sense-making, growth and innovation for the company.