The risks of being an ‘un-deep’ leader

May 15, 2019
By Rowan Belchers

You’d have been living under a rock if you hadn’t noticed this trend, but operating in current business conditions these days is no simple task. Many of the leaders I work with now, feel less able than they’ve ever felt – despite having been leading teams and businesses for years.

Something has changed and the business environment we currently find ourselves in is more complex and less easily understood than ever before. This trend requires us as business leaders to make sure we are changing too.

That change is that we now need to be – simplistically put – ‘deep’.

Being ‘deep’ has an unappealing connotation. It conjures up a range of odd archetypes: the shaman, the academic, the sage, the artist. None translate this word accurately for business purposes and, particularly against the backdrop of a brave topic such as leadership, being ‘deep’ seems frivolous.

Being ‘deep’ is a requirement for today’s business leaders simply because the complexity of business requires the ability to think in a complex way. And you can’t think in complex ways unless you have the ability to handle multiple dimensions.

So, what is ‘deep’? In many ways, it’s just about:

  • Being curious: seeking more; having the capacity to sink into conversations that move slowly;
  • Being still with yourself; considering a question for a long period of time before offering a solution and 
  • It’s a mode more than behaviour and it can absolutely be worked on or worked toward.

The objection to being ‘deep’ seems to be an impression that ‘deep = soft’ or ‘deep = non-value’.

This is a critical mistake when it comes to understanding performance. Coaxing performance from either an individual or an organisation is a subtle art. No longer can command-and-control approaches be used as they tend to be blunt tools applied to any and all scenarios. Performance requires insight and nuances which can only be gained through a certain type of thinking and a certain type of action, both of which require you to think ‘deeply’.

So, how do you become ‘deep’ if you feel you aren’t?

It’s not a simple question to answer. The first port of call is being able to notice when you’re not being deep and when you might be glossing over complexity, or pushing through a problem to get it out of the way rather than engaging with it. If you can do that, you can start to contemplate what else might be going on that isn’t visible, or isn’t apparent.

A strong indicator of your current way of being will be to monitor your response to this article. If it’s to reject it out of hand, that’s a sign that there might be work to do.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers

Rowan is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders globally, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us

For CEOs who wish to develop their CEO craft.