How to Become an Open-Minded Leader

True open-mindedness, the kind described by Laszlo Bock, is a critical, but unappreciated component of CEO leadership.

“What we’ve seen [at Google] is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ – Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, (New York Times)
True open-mindedness, the kind described by Laszlo Bock, is a critical, but unappreciated component of CEO leadership. As a trait first measured by social psychologists in the ’50s, open-mindedness has not been studied in relation to leadership effectiveness. Here are the key characteristics of open-mindedness and how it can be cultivated by organizational leaders.

Why “open-minded”?
According to SEED Vietnam/ AchieveGlobal, open thinking enables you to step outside your usual patterns of thought and response, so you can entertain new ideas and approaches. People usually find that switching to the “mental channel” of open thinking helps them become more creative and energized.
What if we tried this … ?
Have you considered the possibility of … ?
Here’s a new way of looking at things.

What does “open-minded” mean in organizational life?
On the simplest level, open-mindedness means being receptive to new ideas and new information. In organizational life, it has several dimensions:
An openness to new trends and needs evident in customers and markets (external sensing dimension)
An openness to internally generated inspiration or innovation (creative dimension)
An openness to the ideas of others in the organization (collaborative or team dimension)

A question of balance
Our traditional view of leadership stresses forcefulness, courage and risk-taking. But as important as these ideas are, when coupled with closed-mindedness, intolerance of dissent and groupthink they can lead to organizational ruin.
Open-mindedness is foundational to both good decision-making and organization-wide engagement. We need to do more to value, select for and develop open-mindedness, for it is the dynamic balance between forceful action and open-mindedness that defines outstanding leadership.

How to develop open-mindedness


“On the simplest level, open-mindedness means being receptive to new ideas and new information.”

Guided self-reflection can help you cultivate the collaborative dimension of open-mindedness. Either solo or in concert with a coach/thought partner, use the following prompts:
• Can you describe a time when your team took your initial point of view or decision, reworked it, and came out with a better decision? How did you respond?
• Can you describe instances where you, as a leader, changed your mind on a fundamental organizational issue? How did you come to see things differently?
• Are there key people in your organization whom you turn to because they will give you the “unvarnished truth?”
• Are you able to admit you’re wrong? Take note of your own tendencies to make excuses, extensively explain and argue. Dissect recent disagreements to examine whether you were appropriately defending your position or shutting out others’ opinions and important observations.
• Finally, reflect on how your organizational culture either fosters or devalues open-mindedness. As a leader, do you promote or hinder open-mindedness as part of the culture? As the CEO you can elevate the importance of open-mindedness as both a value and a behavior.

By: AchieveGlobal & chiefexecutive.net

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