How To Become A Great Leader

June 13, 2007 at 2:58 pm 1 comment

One of the keys to becoming a great leader is to become adept at symphonic thinking, one of Dan Pink’s six aptitudes, or what Roger Martin terms “integrative thinking“.  Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto has spent many years studying great leaders.  He believes that in looking at great leaders for guidance, we should focus on how they think rather than the specific actions they perform.

He discusses this concept in the June edition of the Harvard Business Review Wendy Marx, the Fast Company expert blogger had a short posting on June 5 refering to the article which was the inspiration behind this posting. 

Unfortunately I don’t have a subscription to the Harvard Business Review so I could only access the main page on the website.  However, here is an excerpt from the main page that illuminates the central idea:

“I have interviewed more than 50 such leaders, some for as long as eight hours, and found that most of them share a somewhat unusual trait: They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their heads two opposing ideas at once. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they’re able to creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but is superior to both. This process of consideration and synthesis can be termed integrative thinking. It is this discipline-not superior strategy or faultless execution-that is a defining characteristic of most exceptional businesses and the people who run them.”

Martin also points out that these skills are not necessarily with great leaders at birth.  They can also be developed.  So I’ve attempted here to come up with a list of ten ways you can develop symphonic or integrative thinking skills:

1.  Brainstorm freely about any topic you would like using a mind-mapping program such as FreeMind or MindMeister.  Using such programs assists in seeing connections between seemingly disparate ideas that would not be seen otherwise.

2.  Pick up a copy of Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future”.  It has a chapter about symphony as a right-brained aptitude as well as a portfolio section packed with tips and exercises useful in developing this skill.

3.  Study this idea-prompting poster.

4.  Be discontinuous.  Shake up your routine, read a book or watch a film  in a genre you wouldn’t otherwise.  Sometimes small changes can lead to interesting mash-ups between old ideas and new ones.

5.   Describe an event or situation in story format incorporating all five senses.

6.  Read a biography of a great composer such as Beethoven or Mozart.  Try to understand how their minds worked in producing a symphony.

7.  Try another point of view when working on a problem.  Keep trying another point of view until you can’t possibly think of anything else.  Then ask someone elso for their point of view.

8.  Study the metaphor.

9.  Anticipate your next project.  Anticipation can sometimes spark new ideas and connections.

10.  Listen to music from many different genres.  Really listen to the sounds and integration of the instruments.


Entry filed under: Personal Branding.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. shwibbs  |  June 13, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I enjoy your blog because you are an avid reader of Personal Branding material and have documented some great authors that have presented the material in a unique fashion.




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