10 Miles Wide, 1 Inch Deep

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by Steve Holt on July 27, 2011

Everything rises and falls on leadership. And of course leadership isn’t easy or everyone would be a leader. In my estimation there are many things that leaders have to concentrate on to be successful leaders, and I want to talk about a few of them in this post. I live in the world of technology and most people want to talk to me about social media so I will frame this discussion around those topics, but this can apply to just about any aspect of business that you want to mention.

When I first started to take on leadership positions years ago I made some pretty big mistakes. I thought I knew more than I actually did and I tried to do too much myself when I should have demonstrated leadership and enabled those around me. When it comes to technology, and social media in particular, it is almost impossible to keep up with it and know everything you need to know to make solid business decisions. I read voraciously every day… blog posts, articles, newsletters, magazines, email newsletters, websites, and on and on. I don’t see any other way to keep up with the trends and emerging products that could make a difference in my business. I don’t see any other way to keep my broad perspective, and it is critical to me.

So as a business owner, what can you do? The first thing you need to do is simply participate in the conversation. Use the tools on some level that your business is going to be using. You can’t very well understand the importance and significance of a Foursquare check-in if you don’t know what Foursquare is. If you don’t know what YouTube is then you’ll have no idea how powerful a viral video can be to promote your business. So you have to participate on some level to understand the world of social media and the promise and pitfalls that it contains.

Then you must take an approach that I call ’10 miles wide, 1 inch deep’. You don’t have to know everything about everything. But you do need to know something. To be an effective leader I think you need to have a vision that is 10 miles wide so that you can take in the landscape and see what is coming, what is working, how things work, and so forth. But you don’t have to go deep on everything, and that is where the ‘1 inch deep’ aspect comes into play. If you know at least a little about lots of things, then you will understand the environment around you and you’ll be able to make better decisions. If you get bogged down trying to micromanage everything around you and know everything then you’ll no longer be a leader. You’ll just be a bad boss that people don’t want to work for.

Finally, you need to surround yourself with good people who are into those things really deep. Let them wade into the water up to their neck while you keep that broad perspective. 10 miles wide and 1 inch deep. It will make you a better leader.


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