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This Ability Separates Superb Leaders From Good Ones

Source | LinkedIn : By John Ryan

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I’d sometimes see my dad involved in long, quiet conversations with our mother or his brother or sister. How the adults were able to sit around and talk so much, instead of watching TV, shooting baskets or throwing a baseball, was something my siblings and I could never understand.

Today, my grandchildren probably wonder the same thing about me.

Because those seemingly boring talks played a critical role in molding my father’s view of the world. He referred to those occasions as “solitude” – a time when he and our mother, uncle or aunt could step away from their busy lives and speak privately and deeply about topics that really mattered to them, whether it was family, faith, hardships or history. My father believed these conversations helped strengthen his mind, character and resolve– and they must have. He had as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever known.

After reading biographies of leaders like Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill whose greatness was grounded in solitude, I gradually came to admire my father’s approach – and then emulate it – in our world of unrelenting distraction. Recent research by my CCL colleague Jennifer Deal found that leaders spend an average of 13.5 hours each day connected to work through their smartphones. Even when the phones aren’t communicating work messages, they are bombarding us with personal texts, emails and social media updates that are often frivolous or trivial. The practical result is that we can’t focus on anything for very long – and when we get out of the habit of concentrating our brains literally start to lose the capacity for deep thought. And the kinds of complex challenges that leaders at all levels face today cannot be addressed in 140 characters or a string of emojis.

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