In The Third Opinion, Dr. Saj-nicole A. Joni notes that the raising of the bar has given way to an even greater challenge for leaders - determining to whom they can turn when experienced, trustworthy advice is required. Some leaders might turn to colleagues inside the organization for help; others might call upon a trusted adviser outside the company. There is, however, another opinion for which most people never ask: the third opinion - the unvarnished insight of a loyal and diverse inner circle of advisers, experts and mentors. This "outside insight" might just be the most important advice of all.
Leadership today requires three new habits:
- Habit of Mind. Leaders today must master a new level of thinking: exponential thinking - the process of examining context, looking for interrelationships, exploring assumptions, and asking questions that reveal the full truth and potential of a situation. This thinking enables you to see all sides of a complex issue, most often in the company of other, like-minded individuals. Indeed, successful leaders need to regularly spend time with thinking partners they trust, because exponential thinking is best done with others.
- Habit of Relationship. Leaders must assemble a new kind of leadership team: one that ensures that they undertake the right kind of exploratory thinking and are challenged by multiple perspectives. This leadership team must be comprised of an action team and an inquiry team that are capable of translating exponential thinking into useful action.
- Habit of Focus. Leaders must have the skill and discipline to focus on the essential nonurgent issues. They must be able to create and execute strategies to carry out their leadership agendas. They must be able to use their inquiry teams and advisory network to get this critical work done, and done properly.
Used together, these habits enable you to build a powerful leadership circle and lead with the benefits of outside insight. These habits are critical to what kind of leader you will be. They distinguish your leadership and your career trajectory.
You can begin developing the three habits and your advisory network at any time during your career. It is important to develop and use the three habits in concert. While everyone will use them differently, there are guidelines to help you focus on perfecting the various parts of each habit as your leadership progresses. In addition, your source of outside insight will likely differ from that of any other leader. The thing to remember is to keep your advisory team a balance of formal and informal sources.
Thinking partners are exponential thinkers who are able to offer you new information and new lines of sight. The best thinking partners have a well-developed ability to think across parochial boundaries; they also possess an aptitude for detecting interdependencies, and they know how, fundamentally, to see a problem at several different levels. They also have the ability to pick the right level for the best solution.
There are a number of capabilities you should seek in your inner-circle thinking partners. They should ask great questions and listen closely. They should have reputations for integrity, and high-quality experience relevant to the key issues you need to resolve. They should be flexible, providing unique perspectives and tailoring their input to meet the challenges and questions at hand. They should have curiosity and an intuitive understanding of your strengths. They should be free from conflict of interest, both personal and structural. They should also be as eager to work with you as you are to work with them. Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries