Perspective. The word comes from a Latin root meaning to “look through or perceive”. When it comes to business and other parts of our lives, perspective can be pivotal in our decision-making, and it is important to recognize that it is a choice. Think of the famous 1895 Mary T. Lathrap poem, “Judge Softly” (more commonly called “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins”). The lines “Just walk a mile in his moccasins/Before you abuse, criticize and accuse./If just for one hour, you could find a way/oTo see through his eyes, instead of your own muse,” remind us that each of us has a unique perspective and that we would serve ourselves and others better if we chose to see things from multiple viewpoints.
Think about the last time you considered a conversation, a challenge or an opportunity. Did you look at it through your own internal lens? Do you consider work situations through your boss’ eyes or your employees’ eyes? What about trying to see what your company looks like through your customers’ eyes?
Successful leaders exhibit empathy, strive for understanding, and try to see things from multiple, if not every, perspective or angle. Christine Blackmon, former U.S. Army Captain and Targeted Skin‘s Founding Sales Leader says, “The best leaders have global perspective; they take action by addressing the now but also anticipate future challenges. An effective leader can quickly sum up their environment, be willing to adapt their strategy to be appropriate for the situation, and quickly take action.”
Columbia University professor Adam D. Galinsky and his colleagues wrote about the combination of power and perspective in his 2014 article “Acceleration with Steering” after their studies showed that “combining power [leadership] and perspective-taking had synergistic effects, producing superior outcomes to what each one achieved separately.”
By looking at others’ viewpoints, strong leaders foster a team atmosphere, but they additionally provide the team with a clear sense of direction and purpose. And true leaders always hold themselves (and others) accountable. Danielle Brooks, N.T.P., C.H., founder of Lake Washington Wellness Center and GoodDecisons.com, explained having perspective in leadership by using herself as an example, “I believe it is giving my word, and being in integrity with my word. When I do not keep my word, I acknowledge that I am out of integrity with my commitment. I then renew my commitment.” She expects her team to also be accountable and full of integrity, and to never make excuses or blame. These ideas are built into the vision and mission of her businesses.
Lisa Levine Riecken, Executive Leadership Coach, agrees that a leader needs a global perspective and to be filled with integrity and accountability. She says, “Good leaders lead, great leaders inspire. I know I am in the company of a true leader when their power comes from lifting others up versus themselves. If every leader realized their greatest value lies in their ability to bring out the best in others, the impact that would follow would be limitless.”
So the next time you find yourself about to abuse, criticize or accuse, remember the Lathrap poem. What perspective would you see if you looked through someone else’s eyes or if you walked a mile or more in someone else’s moccasins?
By Jill L. Ferguson
Jill L. Ferguson is the author of seven books, a business consultant, and the founder of Women’s Wellness Weekends. She can be followed on Twitter @JLFerg.
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