How Successful Leaders Think
The Idea in Brief
- Always hold two opposing ideas in their minds at once.
- Rather than settling for choice A or B, they forge an innovative “third way” that
contains elements of both but improves on each.
- Resist the simplicity and certainty that comes with conventional “either-or”
- Embrace the messiness and complexity of conflicting options. Emulate great
leaders’ decision-making approach—looking beyond obvious considerations.
- Instead of making unattractive trade-offs, you generate a wealth of profitable
solutions for your business.
How Successful Leaders Think
- Focus on what a leader does is misplaced. Moves that work in one context often
make little sense in another, even at the same company or within the experience of
a single leader.
- Focus on how a leader thinks—that is, to examine the antecedent of doing, or the
ways in which leaders’ cognitive processes produce their actions.
-Unusual trait: business leaders have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in
their heads two opposing ideas at once.
Integrative thinking - 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.
- Not every good leader exhibits this capability, nor is it the sole source of success for
those who do. But it is clear to me that integrative thinking tremendously improves
- This insight is easy to miss, though, since the management conversation in recent
years has tilted away from thinking and toward doing (witness the popularity of books
- Many great integrative thinkers aren’t even aware of their particular capability and
thus don’t consciously exercise it.
- It isn’t just an ability you’re born with—it’s something you can hone.
- Opposable Thumb, Opposable Mind The Four Stages of Decision Making
STEP 1: Identifying key factors
Conventional thinkers consider only obviously relevant factors while weighing
Integrative thinkers seek less obvious but potentially more relevant
STEP 2: Analyzing causality
Conventional thinkers consider one-way, linear relationships between factors:
more of A produces more of B.
Integrative thinkers consider multidirectional relationships.
STEP 3: Envisioning the decision’s overall structure
Conventional thinkers break a problem into pieces and work on them separately.
Integrative thinkers see a problem as a whole— examining how its various
aspects affect one another.
STEP 4: Achieving resolution
Conventional thinkers make either-or choices.
Integrative thinkers refuse to accept conventional options.
- Figuring out which factors to take into account.
- How most organizations are structured.
- In his thinking about a new business model for Red Hat, Bob Young added into his
calculations something ignored both by software companies generally and by Linux
suppliers in particular: the day-to-day concerns of corporate CIOs and their systems
administrators. Doing this allowed him to envision an innovative model that tapped
into an entirely new market for Linux-based products and services.
- Young not only empathized with the CIOs but found their caution understandable.
“It’s not FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” he said. “It’s sensible.”
- Linux software was an entirely new product for corporate buyers, one that didn’t
follow any familiar rules. It was free. Linux was cheaper and better than
Windows-based products—the basic sales message delivered by Red Hat’s
rivals—played a relatively small part in the calculation.
- The CIOs were thinking about whether their investment would be in a stable and
consistent platform that would work across their organizations and whether their
suppliers would still be around in ten or 15 years. Systems administrators worried that the complexity of Linux—with its random and almost daily upgrades—would create a
management nightmare, since different teams of people throughout the company
would have to maintain the software packages.
- Analyze how the numerous salient factors relate to one another.
- When we make bad decisions, sometimes it is because we got the causal links
between salient features wrong. Or we may have gotten the direction of a relationship
- The integrative thinker isn’t afraid to question the validity of apparently obvious
links or to consider multidirectional and nonlinear relationships.
- Young’s view—evolut