Real Leaders

What is ‘Dolphin’s-eye View’ Leadership?

‘Bird’s eye view’ or big picture thinking and Worm’s eye view’ or detail orientation are terms that are often used when we talk about leadership.

A leader is expected to see things from a bird’s-eye view so that she is strategic in her approach and to see things from a worm’s eye view to demonstrate strong attention to tactics and details. Usually, a leader’s ability is judged by her ability to move between these two views. But in my view this is not sufficient. What a leader needs is a ‘Dolphin’s-eye view’.

A dolphin serves as a better analogy to me as it is important to recognize and capture the dynamism as we move between the big picture and the details. This dynamism affects how we see a problem. A leader needs to not just move between these views but also between contexts since the contexts change the nature of the problem. With a dolphins-eye view, a leader may be better positioned to achieve the following:

1. Capture the inherent dynamism: Problems are not static. They move as it goes through the eyes of different stakeholders and also, with external factors in time. It is important that a leader travels with the problem and most importantly, stays in sync with the problem to understand the dynamism and make sound decisions.

2. Understand and Adapt to contexts: A Chinese proverb says ‘A fish doesn’t know the water that it swims in’ and it is often true in work environments where we get caught in the details without realizing the context in which we are operating. A leader needs to jump out of his context like a dolphin, see the big picture and most importantly, avoid staying there for too long. Jump back quickly and deeply into this context and this motion needs to be cyclic to stay aligned to the changing realities.

3. Synthesize and Reorient in real time: When you are inside water, you don’t realize the turbulence on the surface. When you jump out, you realize that your whole context is in motion and it becomes very important how you process information while in motion. Leaders need to synthesize in real time and be so agile like dolphins that they can maneuver between the different dynamics in different situations.


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