Thinking vs. doing: The art of leadership

Thinking vs. doing: The art of leadership

When I was a manager at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, the execution of my daily tasks was of utmost importance. Making sure of the proper timing of events, staffing requirements, cost control and service delivery were omnipresent issues. I was graded on how I carried out those tasks. My ability to be promoted was at stake. Rarely was I graded on my people skills, strategic planning or creativity. 
The problem with getting good at tasks like those above is that they don’t prepare you very well for real leadership. Leadership is based on the ability to create a strategy, marshal resources and get a group of people to buy into a purpose. When I am interviewing C-suite executives, I spend most of my time trying to understand how they think, not what they do. Financial results are easy to track and measure. Leadership style and critical thinking are not so visible.

For these reasons, I employ a behavioral interview style. Behavioral interview questions address how a person thinks and reacts in certain situations. Asking questions that address real-life challenges such as conflict resolution, people discipline, creative problem solving, strategic thought process and family dynamics are much more revealing than a review of jobs held. 

So much of an organization’s success depends on good leadership, so don’t put too much emphasis on “what” a person does, but rather, focus on “how” a person does it.