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Probing the Periphery: Mastering Vigilant Leadership

| July 1, 2008

by Jim Bruce

Over the past week or so, it has seemed that everywhere I turned I ran across an article or a book with leadership or leader in the title:  Vigilant Leadership, Adaptive Leadership, the Leader of the Future, Better Leadership, and Total Leadership.  Today’s piece, Mark Hanna’s “Probing the Periphery:  Mastering Vigilant Leadership” is from the June 2008 issue of the Wharton Leadership Digest.  

The thesis of Hanna’s short piece is that important “trends often have secret roots and subtle beginnings, but even seasoned professionals can miss or resist the early signals.”  In the piece he draws upon Day and Schoemaker’s article “Are You a ‘Vigilant Leader’?” which appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review.

So, the question:  How can you foster vigilance in leadership, where vigilance is a “heightened state of awareness, characterized by curiosity, alertness, and a willingness to act on incomplete information”?  How do you enable yourself and your staff to look “for ‘weak and unexpected signals’ in the periphery, scanning for ‘new opportunities for growth or anticipating serious threats before they become too serious”?

Vigilant leaders according to Hanna:

•  develop and exhibit a wider field of vision, have a broader comprehension

•  focus externally and stay open to diverse perspectives

•  probe for second-order effects

•  encourage others to explore widely by creating a culture of discovery.

Take some time during the remainder of the week to become more vigilant, to begin to have that wider field of vision, to probe for unexpected effects, to explore more widely.


.  .  .  .  .     jim