Saturday, May 17, 2008

Time

Time is an interesting thing. We all are given the same number of hours in each day. And yet at the end of the day, some have made mountains out of molehills, while others have moved mountains.

According to Dr. Koestenbaum, the ability to seize control over how you experience time is an important trait of the leadership mind. How you perceive time affects how you tackle the challenges of leadership.

In his book Leadership – The Inner Side of Greatness (p. 185) Dr. Koestenbaum talks about how the Pentagon uses the concept of time in the process of selecting generals. The general rule (pun intended) is that while effective executives may perceive time in terms of ten-year blocks, a good general will perceive time in longer spans, perhaps twenty-five-years or more. This larger sense of time gives the general the ability to perceive past, present, and future events as a single continuum. The actions of today can be evaluated with regard to how they will affect the future of the organization, or their ability to accomplish a specific goal.

If you are spending all of your time focusing on how to get through the day, you will not be able to effectively lead an organization that needs to perceive the events of today in a framework of the past, present, and future.

One way of improving your ability to look into the future is suggested by Kouzes and Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge (p. 106-107). They describe a study done by El Sawy of USC that shows that by reflecting on the past before looking into the future an executive can improve both the detail and the depth of his or her future vision. Sawy says:

If we want to plan for the distant future, and we want the (executives) to elongate their time horizons in their image of the future, let them talk about history first.

Kouzes and Posner do not suggest that the past is the future, however, they do suggest that taking time to reflect on a rich set of experiences improves the ability to envision the future.