Think!

If you’re a leader, we need you to take time to think.

This week I’m in Helvoirt, the Netherlands, with about 60 leaders from a dozen nations across Western Europe. Last night John, the sponsor of this gathering, invited these busy folks to relax and enjoy taking three days away from the front lines. “Pull out of the whirlwind,” John exhorted as he flashed a slide of a menacing tornado up on the wall.

You no longer function in an industrial society. You live in a knowledge economy that is drowned in data daily. We need you to pull away – regularly – to make sense of it all.

Our busy, noisy world is full of reactive leaders. We need you to be a reflective leader. Godly spiritual and strategic leadership requires thoughtful reflection before execution. Please don’t be deceived into thinking otherwise.

I’ve told the teams I lead that I don’t want to see them looking busy all the time when we’re together. Yes, there are times we need to saddle up and work hard. But I also want to see the senior leaders I work with relaxed, pushed back from their desks, and mulling over an article on their iPad or capturing some ideas in a journal. I want to catch them in the act of thinking. Thinking is real work.

How do you cultivate the practice of reflective leadership?

Published
Categorized as Leadership

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded Indigitous.org, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at www.onleadingwell.com.

8 comments

  1. Thanks so much for this! I feel like I’ve been doing a lot more thinking this semester, due to necessity of many changes in our team for the semester, and other ministry things I’m responsible for outside of our ArkansasCru ministry, and it feels good to actually be a calmer leader than a frazzled, crazy busy leader that I more lean toward! Plus when you get the flu, and told by the dr. you have to stay home the first 2 weeks of a semester, it really does help to put things into perspective when all you can do is think!

  2. @Katie – I appreciate your desire to not be a frazzled, crazy leader. Your flu has not been wasted!

  3. Ken,
    Totally agree. Was in a conversation with someone a couple weeks ago who mentioned to me that thinkers (or philosophers or reflectives) are routinely marginalized in the org because they sometimes don’t always look like they are producing immediate or “strategic” fruit.

    There’s a great chapter in Orbiting the Giant Hairball which I use in the leadership community I run called “What you don’t see is what you get.” One of the primary metaphors he used was cows – that for them to provide their greatest value and contribution they needed to spend hours and hours grazing and chewing. Most of the time it doesn’t look like anything is happening, but in reality necessary processes were taking place.

    Our team has at different seasons tried to create space for “invisible creative (or thinking/reflective) activity”, but curious organizationally what you think about fostering more reflective conversations and space where reflection and thinking is platformed as real work. I don’t see that often. Seems like part of the problem is most meetings tend to only honor the immediate, pragmatic, or organizationally strategic interaction and little time is spent on the work and discipline thinking. I think usually this all comes down to leadership, but any thoughts on creating more space on larger levels for both individuals and groups to do the work of thinking? Wondering how to sow into culture this value and help people who may not be quick to see the value make the connections of how it serves strategic or “real” outcomes and work.

  4. @Brian – You have wonderful insights into the need for disciplined thinking, by individuals and the team. BTW, I love “Orbiting the Giant Hairball.” As leaders, we must sow into the culture the disciplined practice of reflection. If our teams do not see this in my schedule, it will never be present in theirs. kc

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