The Process of Thinking

10 Things That Reveal How Leaders Think

The current buzz word “thought leader“ captures clout for those who stand out in the industry. But for years in other organizations or communities, we’ve used other clichés to identify those who think well: “He’s fast on his feet” or “She has a clear head on her shoulders.”

Leaders look to hire, promote, and listen to those who think clearly and communicate well.

But what if you’re naturally quiet and slow to speak up in a crowd?  Can you still convey the same sense of being an astute, clear thinker as your more outgoing colleagues?

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of Apple Retail and a Top 50 Influencer on LinkedIn, summed up the situation when she posted this comment: “When I ask these questions in a 60-minute job interview, I’m actually studying how you think.” She went on to write about assessing how applicants think when they have no idea that’s the point.

Here are 10 ways you reveal what’s going on inside your head—some of them without saying a word:

  1. Posture: Your posture screams louder than your words to tell others how you feel about them, about yourself, and about the topic. Slouched shoulders, caved chest, leaning to the side—say either I’m uninterested in the topic, unsure of my message, nervous about this conversation, or afraid to talk to you. A rigid torso and awkward gestures say you’re unsure about your message and/or nervous to be around the person. On the other hand, a confident posture (shoulders back, but relaxed; feet in the “ready” position; natural hand gestures) communicates interest in the ideas you’re delivering. 
  1. Facial Expression: Unless purposefully guarded, your facial expression registers either comfort or discomfort, passion or boredom, clarity or confusion about a topic or process.
  1. Extemporaneous Remarks: We live in an edited world. Performers at “live” events are often rehearsed, coached, prepped to the nth degree. Social media comments can be edited—and are often planned days in advance.  Spontaneous answers to questions represent your real ability to think on your feet.  That’s NOT to say, however, that your fast thinking is your best But it is often your OWN thinking. 
  1. Emotional Stability: An emotionally out-of-control person can’t communicate logical thoughts well. Whether exploding anger, withdrawing, or pouting, inappropriate emotional behavior will overshadow rational thoughts.  The resulting distraction and stress prevent people from taking them seriously.
  1. Transparency: Those whose thoughts are unflattering and unpopular do not welcome openness. 
  1. Associations:  Look no further than political ads for this revelation. People who associate together typically think alike—or at least enough alike either to give reassurance or raise eyebrows. 
  1. Accessibility: Arrogance and humility come to the forefront here. The arrogant thinker says, “I have all the answers, so why would I need to converse or hear from anyone else?”  The humble person thinks, “I should listen; I can learn something from anyone—even if it’s what NOT to do or say or what WON’T work.”
  1. Memory: An accurate recall of information suggests organized, clear thinking. What’s muddled proves difficult to remember. When you thoroughly understand how to resolve a problem—as opposed to happening onto a resolution—chances are much greater that you can recall it a year later or 10 years later.
  1. Judgment and the Decision Process: Clear thinking leads to good judgment and decisiveness. Failure to focus on goals, to identify criteria, and to assess and separate opinion from fact leads to mis-steps and indecisiveness. 
  1. Action: No matter how often someone tries to blame, complain, or explain away actions, what they do reflects how they think.

Computer programmers frequently refer to the WYSI-WYG (What You See Is What You Get) design.  Likewise, you might call these 10 aspects of revelation WOSI-HYT (What Others See in How You Think).

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