Every CEO starts out with aspirations of being an incredible leader, but as the minutiae of the job creeps in, “leadership” often gets pushed to the back burner. Peaceful nights turn into sleepless ones as CEOs wrestle with questions: How does leadership fit into the million things I need to know and do? What should I be spending my time on? How do I create a culture that attracts and keeps great people? A new book, Finding Time to Lead: Seven Practices to Unleash Outrageous Potential, by leadership expert Leslie Peters, provides the answers — and more.
Drawing on more than two decades spent working side by side with today’s top CEOs, Peters deconstructs great leadership into a clear series of concise shifts and practices. These are tools that anyone can learn to use, no matter where he or she stands on the organizational chart. Peters starts with a key question: Is leadership who you are, or what you do? As she explains, “Who do I want to be right now?” is a very different question than, “What do I want to do right now?”
Great leaders decide who they want to be in any given moment — and use this awareness to guide their choices. Much like adjusting a camera lens from a narrow focus to a wider angle, shifting perspective from doing to being presents a whole range of new possibilities.
It’s one of three fundamental shifts required to become a truly effective leader: from “doing to being,” “knowing to understanding,” and “reacting to responding.” With each, more potential is unleashed — and the book shows exactly how to apply these shifts to just about everything a leader has to face.
For example, Peters notes that successful leaders make a clear shift in how they listen: they listen well, and talk less. Being a great listener is based on two distinct techniques: focused listening, and epic listening. Focused listening involves paying close attention to a person’s words and their meaning — without taking the mental step of formulating a response. It’s expressed in statements that allow more exploration, such as, “Tell me more about that” or “Wow. What did that look like?” And it enables people to work through issues on their own.
Epic listening, on the other hand, involves tuning into the emotional state of the person speaking — the concerns behind the words. It gets to the real issue at hand, saving time and energy for everyone involved.
Finding Time to Lead is packed with such actionable tips. Peters shows how to refer back to past experiences and the hardwired, biological defaults that so often influence decision-making. By becoming far more aware of these old reference points, we can utilize gut reactions when they’re helpful, but step away from them when they aren’t.
The author also addresses the issue of tricky employees, such as the “parking lot mafia” — who gossip because they are seeking explanations — and can derail many a leader’s authority. As for the endless quest for perfect corporate messaging, Peters offers engaging, real-world examples and some humorous Ah-hah moments.
All in all, this is an extremely well-crafted guidebook filled with useful strategies, time-test advice, and a compelling mix of case studies, personal stories, psychology, and science to back it up. Peters’ lively combination of humor and straight talk makes for a fast read. An accompanying audio series and toolkit, via Peters’ website feature a whole host of practical exercises based on the book. Outstanding leadership is a matter of unlocking potential with the right time and tools, Peters proves — and her approach is the key.
To learn more about Leslie Peters and her new book, visit her website.