Balance Thinking and Doing: The Power of Leadership Language!

In today’s fast-paced VUCA world, there is a dire need for innovative and adaptable leaders who can steer their organisations towards success. The traditional leadership models that focus solely on getting things done may not be enough to achieve this goal. In his radical book, “Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say—and What You Don’t,” L. David Marquet challenges this approach and advocates for a paradigm shift towards a more balanced thinking-and-doing leadership style.

According to Marquet, an overemphasis on doing things can lead to a lack of creativity and flexibility, whereas neglecting the critical role of thinking can result in missed opportunities and stagnation. By finding the right balance between doing and thinking, leaders can create a culture of innovation, collaboration, and growth that not only drives their organisations towards success but also inspires and motivates their teams.

Marquet’s book offers a fresh perspective on leadership, backed by practical advice and real-life examples. This practicality is a significant strength, as it provides leaders with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of today’s business world. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or a young professional, ‘Leadership Is Language’ is a valuable resource that will inspire you to reconsider your leadership approach and unlock your full potential.

Marquet’s central argument is straightforward: ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ are not isolated components but interconnected facets of effective leadership. ‘Doing’ involves execution and action, while ‘thinking’ encompasses reflection, analysis, and strategic decision-making. By striking a balance between these two elements, organizations can foster a culture of continuous improvement, creativity, and adaptability. This equilibrium is the cornerstone of successful leadership in today’s fast-paced and intricate business environment.

The book highlights the concept that thinking introduces variability into organisational processes. This variability is essential for innovation, problem-solving, and adapting to changing circumstances. On the other hand, doing, while crucial for implementation and execution, tends to reduce variability by standardising processes and routines.

However, an excessive focus on reducing variability through doing can lead to rigidity and resistance to change. By adopting thinking as a complementary force, organisations can introduce new perspectives, experiment with different approaches, and uncover innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Fundamental to Marquet’s argument is the role of leadership language in shaping organisational culture and behaviour. The way leaders communicate can either encourage or inhibit thinking and doing. By promoting a climate of open dialogue, curiosity, and experimentation, leaders can empower their teams to think critically, take calculated risks, and drive meaningful change. This underscores the importance of each leader’s role in shaping the organisational culture and the responsibility that comes with it.

To implement the book’s insights effectively, organisations must prioritise creating a culture that values both thinking and doing. Leaders should encourage continuous learning, experimentation, and reflection while also emphasising the importance of action and implementation. By striking a harmonious balance between these elements, organisations can manage complexity, drive innovation, and achieve sustainable success. Six new leadership plays are introduced to achieve this balance:

  • Control the clock instead of obeying the clock: Encouraging leaders to take control of their time and priorities rather than simply following a set schedule.
  • Collaborate instead of coercing: Emphasizing collaboration and teamwork over using authority to force compliance.
  • Commitment rather than compliance: Focusing on promoting commitment to goals and values rather than enforcing strict compliance.
  • Complete defined goals instead of continuing work indefinitely: Setting clear goals and objectives to guide actions and avoid aimless work.
  • Improve outcomes rather than prove ability: Prioritising continuous improvement and learning over demonstrating individual abilities.
  • Connect with people instead of conforming to your role: Building relationships and connections with team members rather than adhering strictly to predefined roles.

Implementing these plays creates a culture that values collaboration, experimentation, and continuous improvement. This allows leaders to effectively balance thinking (bluework) and doing (redwork) within their organisations. This approach enables teams to adapt, innovate, and drive success in today’s fast-paced and complex business environment.

“Leadership Is Language” is a must-read for anyone who wants to challenge the status quo and adopt a new way of thinking about leadership. David Marquet’s compelling argument for a more holistic approach to leadership that integrates thinking and doing is relevant not only to business leaders but also to anyone who wants to make a positive impact in their personal and professional lives. By recognising the power of leadership language and the impact of balancing variability and standardisation, we can all unlock our full potential, build a culture of innovation, and thrive in an ever-evolving world. So, let’s start speaking the language of leadership and lead from wherever we are.

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