There is a lot of good leadership advice ‘out there’ and I have found that what tends to happen is the right insights find you rather than the other way around. In other words you may have come across some good leadership wisdom yet it remains ‘unseen’ because you are ‘not ready’ to receive it at that particular time. Then one day, it seems to smack you right between the eyes and it makes a real difference to how you live your leadership. There is a wisdom saying that goes, ‘when the learner is ready, the teacher appears’.
FacesThe reality is that teachers surround us all the time but it is our failure to ‘see’ them that inhibits our learning. Many years ago I had the privilege to work with and through those directly involved in children living on the streets of Durban, South Africa. It was work that challenged one daily; it was work that was as demanding as it was rewarding. When the project was initiated the motivation was sound and the unspoken expectation that ‘we’ would help ‘them’ (the kids); that ‘they’ would learn from ‘us’. Over the years the reality was quite different. What we found was that in many instances ‘they’ (the kids) were our instructors, were our teachers in life, in matters of resilience, hope, joy and a whole string of things that make up what we call ‘living’. It took time and humility to recognise this reality.
As a leader, when last did you stumble across some significant insight that altered the trajectory of how you think and practice your leadership?
It is worth pausing and thinking about that for a moment and here are four questions that might help you reconstruct that significant moment or period:
What was the context for that learning insight?
What specifically allowed you to be ‘open’ to receiving that wisdom?
What have you subsequently done with it?
What in turn has that led to – or what has been created as a result?
Much of this type of ‘learning’ is serendipitous in nature but I believe that one can intentionally cultivate a greater awareness to such learning practice.
To do this two things are needed:
1.    Cultivate the ability to ‘see’ – to really see what is around you, and specifically to see others.
2.    To intentionally be curios.
The deliberate ‘seeing’ of others sounds obvious and yet somehow we often miss seeing those around us. Of course we notice the important, the influential, the powerful but that is not what I am talking about. Our failure to really ‘see’ the many who intersect with us on a daily basis means we strip away potential learning and insights.
A helpful way to unlock this seeing is to practice curiosity. The two work together. Being curious about others is a gateway to deeper and unsuspected learning. Cultivating curiosity is smart leadership practice.
So, here in closing is a short challenge for you to experiment with today:
Test how deliberately you can pursue the ‘seeing’ of others as you walk through your day. Having noticed them, try to unlock a deeper level of insight through the practice of curiosity.
All the best as you try this and I would love to hear any resulting stories that emerge.

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