Leadership Resources

Leadership Resources from the Carlson Executive MBA Program

Introduction: The Importance of Perspective In Leadership

“It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see.” – Henry Throreau. Leaders need to be intentional about understanding things through the perspective of others (perspective taking). When faced with a problem or obstacle in leadership, it is important to understand the problem before making a decision. A leader’s ability to gain new perspectives around an issue is a characteristic that separates successful leaders from those who seem to get ‘stuck where they are’ in developing high performing teams and organizations.
Often, we hear managers asking employees to develop a “strategic view” and be able to view things from 30000 ft high. This, to them, is a way of taking perspective from a leadership point of view. But this is far from easy. The next time you’re in a commercial airplane and cruising around 30,000 feet, take a look out the window and note what you see—some clouds, large swaths of land, maybe a mountain range. The reality is you’re too high up to see much of anything with any precision. Take a helicopter between 500 to 1,000 feet and you’ll be able to clearly recognize what you’re looking at, with the benefit of seeing it from a new, higher perspective. Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice, talks about the concept of Zoom Out and then Zoom In. To be able to take a higher perspective, you have to zoom out first so that you can see the entire landscape. Once a plan is established, you need to zoom in with full energy and determination.
This collection of resources is meant to challenge you as a leader to think about your ability to shift your perspective and that of your team. Being intentional about seeking the perspective of others on all levels, without bias or judgment is a critical leadership skill.