How big is your thinking?
“For me, the big heads symbolize children: new, uncorrupted, their heads full of endless possibility open to whatever comes their way. It is only as we grow older that we become narrow and closed. Let’s keep our heads as big as possible.” – Mackenzie Thorpe
When I started my current job equipped with “Future Engage Deliver” under one arm and “Leading Clever people” under the other a colleague remarked “Good news! No need to worry about the so-called difficult people – they invariably make good leaders!” This got me thinking: Irrespective of whether I agree with the statement what does ‘difficult’ really mean and is it really about being different?
In our hospitals we have a patron of the arts, the famous painter MacKenzie Thorpe. He was discouraged by his lecturers early in his career because they thought his painting naive. You may have seen his drawings of children with enormous feet and heads. Thorpe tells the story of growing up as one of seven children in a very grounded and supportive family and that this experience shaped his painting. His thinking is that when we are children our minds are open to all sorts of possibilities and that as we get older we become less open to the wide range of options available to us in any given situation. Hence his drawings of children with large heads and big feet and older people with small heads and feet.
So what has this got to do with leadership? Leadership is a journey of growing into something and sometimes ideas which seem, on first sight or hearing, quite difficult can, if given space and time to grow, be the way forward. Herein lies a key aspect of FED leadership; that of nurturing people and their ideas, encouraging people to think big and to think differently. What I am learning as a leader is what Mackenzie Thorpe experienced as a child; to keep my feet firmly on the ground whilst thinking big, and crucially keeping possibilities alive. As leaders we need to be sure-footed and grounded whilst being open to all possibilities, to new ideas and also to remember that often those ideas which are simple and straightforward are the best. In their turn they will spark new ideas and further possibilities.
Leadership nudge: How open are you to new ideas? What could you do this week to encourage others to think differently and to grow their ideas? How ready are you to try something new and different? What may you need to do differently in order to have people around you think differently and open up to even more possibilities?
By Rob Wilson, Medical Director, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.
Learn more about Professor Rob Wilson, the author of this article.