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GREAT LEADERS

6 Things Really Thoughtful Leaders Do

Thoughtful leaders are truly respected. Here are six traits that make them so admired.
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The last month of the year is a great time for introspection, enhancing relationships and setting a course for the year ahead. This is the time when it's easy to notice those people who are thoughtful.  They are the ones who stand out because of the way they treat people, manage their careers, and measure up against challenging goals.

To be a thoughtful leader is to be greatly admired and deservedly so. The brain is a sadly under-utilized organ. A little effort can make a big difference in gaining the respect that goes with being thoughtful. Here are 6 traits of really thoughtful leaders for you to emulate as 2013 draws to a close.

1. They Observe

Thoughtful leaders crave stimulus to get their mind working. That's why their powers of observation are always hard at work. They are masters of watching and listening to everything happening. They observe the world moving around them and notice behavior, culture and patterns with great interest. When engaging with people they have heightened awareness of their tone, mood and feelings. You can see they are actively engaged. Try spending an hour in a busy environment just looking and listening. Take notes on what you see and hear, or better yet shut off your inner voice and just take it all in.

2.  They Explore

Thoughtful leaders are naturally curious. Their insatiable need for knowledge drives them to open closed doors, dissect the mundane and analyze alternative concepts. They can spend hours surfing the web or weeks traveling abroad.  Questions starting with who, what, where, why and how are second nature to them. In conversation they will probe and prod, looking for deeper answers and hoping to get to the core truth. No idea or suggestion is poor at the outset; rather all possibilities are worthy of open consideration. Expand your perspective beyond your normal sphere. Make an attempt to engage people and ponder ideas that are outside your usual, comfortable approach.

3. They Reflect

Thoughtful leaders understand the value of deep thinking. Although perfectly capable of making reflexive decisions when required, they prefer to ponder and live with big dilemmas and decisions. They think about the potential implications for themselves and the other people around them. They consider carefully the people they impact and use skilled communication to instill comfort and confidence in their teams. They know that a slow "yes" is better than a fast "no" and will apportion appropriate time and energy to each opportunity. Begin adding time to your decision process. Using a journal, create a 1--5 rating for the seriousness of your decisions and determine a set time to decide that allows you to consider all angles.  Try this for a week and you'll learn how to manage your thinking for both depth and efficiency.

4. They Learn

Thoughtful leaders love to get smart. Their insatiable need for knowledge drives them to read, discuss and absorb complex concepts and broad perspectives. No amount of information is enough for them to feel complete and accomplished. The joy of the learning journey thrills them more than any degree or accolade. Their deep interest in other people is genuinely derived from their desire to understand. Set out three new challenging skills to learn over the next year.  You'll not only gain the subject knowledge required, but you'll stimulate your desire and aptitude to learn more.

5. They Consider Others

Thoughtful leaders are naturally empathetic.  They have a love of humankind and are fascinated by offensive or bizarre behavior rather than affronted by it. At their core they understand the concept of cause and effect, thinking about how to get the most desired reaction for the effort extended. They make people around them feel important and worthy of time and energy. Examine your actions from the perspective of others. Think through your decisions from the perspective of your adversaries. You may find more win-win scenarios than you previously thought possible.

6. They Take Action

Thoughtful leaders are rarely stuck in analysis paralysis. They know how to turn careful thought into meaningful action. They understand that thought and exploration without physical implementation and impact is selfish and wasteful. They won't make people wonder if any good comes of all this thinking. They know when to finish the thinking and make great things happen. Whatever great things you have been pondering, it's time to put those thoughts into motion and achieve your preferred destiny.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Dec 2, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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