Merge's Blog

Details and the big picture — effective leadership requires a focus on both!

big pictureExceptional leadership requires a dual focus — the ability to visualize the big picture and look ahead, and the skill to examine the details of the present.  A great metaphor is the value of both microscopes and telescopes.

Scientific study made a giant leap forward in the span of about two decades, starting in the late 16th century.  The invention of the microscope around 1590 and the development of the telescope around 1608 were game-changers in the realm of science.  Suddenly, objects near by could be seen in greater detail; and objects far away could be brought into focus.  Since their original inventions, both microscopes and telescopes have become increasingly powerful, uncovering and explaining many of the mysteries of natural science.  There is no doubt that both instruments have been, and continue to be, indispensable to scientists everywhere.

Think details and well as big picture

If you think about it, the metaphor of microscopes and telescopes is very important to leaders as well.  Exceptional leaders are both problem-solvers and visionaries.  On the one hand, they are remarkable in their ability to evaluate the current state of affairs, to delve into the details, and determine how to overcome problems in order to move ahead.  At the same time, they can look out into the distance, visualize where the organization needs to go, and lead others towards the goal.

Another way to look at it is to think about problems and possibilities.  Exceptional leaders know problems are solved by examining them under the microscope.  Looking at the details, breaking things down into individual pieces, understanding the processes, recognizing the bottlenecks, all lead to a resolution of the problem.  But exceptional leaders also know that the possibilities are realized only when they reach for the telescope.  They know the potential is out there, but only when you look into the telescope does the opportunity come into focus, and the path for how to get from here to there is seen with greater clarity.

So where do these extraordinary leaders look for the microscopes and telescopes they need?  Some leaders already have them in their own leadership toolkits.  But it isn’t necessary to look within to find them.  As long as you surround yourself with trusted employees whom you can consult as your microscopes and telescopes, you are still setting yourself up for success as an outstanding leader.

Do you have microscopes and telescopes?  Do you know when to use or consult them?  I’d love to know what you think.  Please comment below.

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