Observations and Leaders – Do they go hand in hand?

photo via flickr by reidsrow
photo via flickr by reidsrow

Some of my past posts, I have commented on why I enjoy just sitting back and observing. Hell, I even have a category for observations. Why? Time to tie a couple of my blog categories together. Leadership and the power of observation. Successful leaders need to develop and practice their powers of observation.


Few behaviors or thoughts in helping to develop observation skills:

  • Knowledge of the behaviors and attitudes of people
  • Sizing up people – people watching
  • Clarity – seeing the world as it is
  • Curiosity – asking why
  • Listening or paying attention skills
  • Willingness to set aside personal biases
  • Willingness to seek the inputs of others

Observation is learning on the fly – there is no book you can learn from, no class to take. You sit, watch and learn as you go. Every situation over the years, adds to your knowledge base. Something as simple as sitting in the mall – watching all the actions, listening to the discussions or interacting with strangers – adds to your bank of experience. It is easy, yet many leaders struggle to do this well.

How many meetings do you go to that would be rated a waste of time? I have some… I challenge myself in those sessions to sit and listen and using some (if not all) of those listed above – come out with 3 different and new observations. Some of them maybe about the meeting and the member dynamics. Other maybe about understanding better what motivates certain team members. Maybe even looking deeper into what really is the purpose of the meeting and maybe the meeting just needs a kick in the butt. Take those away – and maybe you will increase your knowledge. Maybe get the meeting in gear. You just never know, tell you try.

Leaders that value this skill are likely to be more successful than those that don’t. Ever go to the decision making meeting and not pay attention to the tone, body language or attitudes? If so, how did that go? I bet not very well. You have to be able to read and react to almost every situation. Notice I said almost every situation – simply put – you can not have every possible situation locked in your knowledge database. Impossible, but that should be the overall goal; get experience with everything.

In this day and age – we have folks that walk around all day wearing their headphones; head down texting; anything be observing their surroundings. It is time to pay attention, you just might learn something about people or situations.