[November 01, 2013] We all want our leaders to be problem solvers and overcome all obstacles. Fundamentally, relevant experience is what makes this possible. While experience is necessary for all leaders, our most senior leaders need a broader array of experiences.
Senior executive leaders should have the experience of sufficient moral preparation to stay right, to act quickly when called upon, to be resolute and kind, to remain intelligently flexible, and remain calm when others panic.
”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Today, senior leaders working in a much more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, will be far more reliable if their experiences range beyond their current job description. They should also be capable of calling upon other senior leaders for ideas, information, and assistance – be leaders not just in their sphere of business.
With narrow experiences, a senior leader is limited intellectually and emotionally. This is especially true in dealing with atypical problem sets and unusual obstacles. It is simply human to be confined to organizational standardized processes.
Of course, a senior executive new to the organization, hired from outside the business specialty, works initially from a disadvantage because they lack company-specific knowledge. Yet what they bring in new ways of thinking establishes their real value.
Experience in problem solving, planning, decision-making, resourcing, and personal leadership techniques of the broadly experienced leader, is a distinct advantage to the organization.
Many companies recognize this and have policies that move their leaders about into a diversity of jobs. The intent is to gain relevant experience across the organization. This will eventually benefit them as critical senior leaders. While this is helpful, experience outside the organization is a superior technique.
This may mean that the organization leadership should be willing to give up their leaders for periods of time, even years, so that they return to them with a wider view.
In-house organizational experience is still the most applicable. But senior leaders, with a wide array of experience, are more likely to successfully lead an organization that is faced with unusual problems fostered in our complex world.
David J. Schwartz calls this “thinking big.” If you think big, you will succeed.1
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz