From Telescopes to Microscopes, Great Leaders need it all

I have written before about the places I get ideas and inspiration for what I write here.  Once again I give credit to my pastor and friend, David Cassidy, for helping me think about leadership in a different and descriptive manner.  Today’s post will look at the differing types of vision that leaders need to have in order to be successful.  I enjoy learning from others and try to always give credit where it is due. To David I say “thank you” once more.

Great leaders need to be like chameleons.  This does not mean that they are always changing in order to hide, but it does mean they are always changing and adapting.  Leaders are about change and some of the situations that leaders encounter might cause the faint of heart to pull back and try to fade into the surroundings.  Here are just a few of the challenges that great leaders may face:

  • Helping companies grow
  • Working with companies as they downsize
  • Merger and Acquisition situations
  • Bringing new products or services on line
  • Establishing new products or services in a new area or market
  • Reinforcing or changing company culture
  • Pairing back or redirecting resources

Each of the situations above involve change and Leaders must excel at change.  Change involves vision of many types and this is where the telescope and microscope analogy comes into play.  Let’s talk a few moments about telescopic and microscopic leadership tactics and strategy for leaders.

Telescopes are devices that enable us to see a long distance away.  Leaders are often charged with the work of seeing not just what tomorrow holds, but also in seeing what may confront us in 6, 12, 24 or more months into the future.  Having a good telescope has enabled many leaders to avoid pitfalls that may take things off track and this same telescopic vision will also enable the leader to see where the calm seas may life as they direct the organizational vessel into the future.  Without this telescopic vision, the leader and the organization may fail, or fail to live up to their ultimate potential.

Microscopes are devices that enable one to see things at a much smaller level than can be done with the naked eye.  Leaders also need this microscopic vision to get “into the weeds” to see why things are not functioning in the right manner after or during the time they are guiding the ship in this future direction.  Great leaders have the ability to shift from telescopic to microscopic vision quite quickly and they also understand when to use one and not the other.

The inability to shift from telescopic to microscopic is one pitfall that many leaders have not mastered.  I have seen many leaders, including yours truly, who have mastered the microscopic approach, but often have forgotten how to develop or utilize the telescopic approach.  This leader does a good job of handling today’s issues, but falters when it comes to casting a future vision and leading the team or organization past the immediate issue at hand.  Likewise, some leaders have great telescopic vision, but lack the ability to drop into the weeds to “get under the hood” and fix major organizational issues.  Always looking at the future keeps good leaders from becoming great leaders because they have not built enough organizational capacity for the longer journey ahead.

Great leaders need the ability to look ahead and also deal with today’s issues.  They require both telescopic and microscopic vision.  Having the ability to use both, and understanding when to use either, is a key attribute that differentiates good leaders from those who will be great leaders.

I’ll be back soon to talk more about how to develop your telescopic and microscopic leadership attributes.