Why Having A Bias For Action Is Important In Leaders?

Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”Indira Gandhi 

In our experience of having worked with average and high performing managers, one of the biggest differentiators between the two is their bias towards action. High performers are impatient and can’t wait to get started, have a can-do attitude, and a ‘good as done’ vision of success that drives them.

We have seen this value in lot of leaders across different companies and verticals but we see this very naturally in leaders of Unilever. The primary reason for this is the industry that they operate in is fast paced, where they can’t move forward without a sense of urgency and the ability to make tough decisions. Another crucial reason for why it’s a commonly found ingredient in almost all the leaders of Unilever is that candidates are assessed against their core values, one of them being Bias for Action. This core value is ingrained in the culture of the company.

plan action

In the book, Screw it, Let’s do it, Richard Branson says that the little word “cannot” or “can’t” should not be something that stops you from doing what you would really love to do in your life. His strategy and motto in life are truly, “screw it, let’s do it!”

Often we don’t take a step forward or seize an opportunity that comes our way because we fear failure, we anticipate the worst, and we don’t know what to expect. In doing so and saying ‘no’ often, we miss out on a lot of big opportunities.

Branson, with his giant bias towards action, believes that the impossible is generally just the untried. He says, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

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So are we really saying that we should jump into action without any plan?  Here is another thought from an inspirational man who inspired millions of people, Nelson Mandela: “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.” Trying to get something done without having any idea of what needs to be done or how to do it is a real waste of time and energy. You have probably seen someone who won’t get up and do anything, but has magnificent plans for how they could – it’s simply day dreaming.

David Maister, in his book Strategy and the Fat Smoker, says that personally and professionally, we already know what we should do: lose weight, give up smoking, and exercise more. Even in business, strategic plans are loaded with goals: build client relationships, act like team player, and provide fulfilling, motivating careers.

Of course, we want the benefits of these things. We know what to do, we know why we should do it, and we know how to do it. Yet most businesses and individuals don’t do what’s good for them. We all know that exercising will reward us with a healthier life, but going to the gym tends to be a New Years resolution that we never put into action.

fat man smoking

David Maister asserts, “The primary reason we do not work at behaviors which we know we need to improve is that the rewards (and pleasure) are in the future; the disruption, discomfort and discipline needed to get there are immediate.”

Think back in your professional career – have you ever spotted a chance to do something valuable for the company, a project that would really shake things up, but for some reason you did not purse it? Or perhaps you started but then gave up when you hit the first big roadblock. The real difference between the managers at the most admired companies like Apple, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, etc. and the less successful ones is that despite all the knowledge and competence, despite having all the same resources at their disposal, some managers don’t move beyond their routine day to day tasks; they don’t take the risk and do exceptional things that create a company’s future.

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We come across so many people in our work where one or more of these three attributes – vision, passion, and action – are missing. In our Singapore office we have named our training rooms using these 3 attributes to help remind everyone that you need all three working together in complete synchrony in order to ensure your dreams come to life.

I leave you with these words of Steve Jobs, who became the leader of Bias towards Action, and changed the world of technology: “If I try my best and fail, well, I have tried my best.”

Have you ever acted on something, pushed yourself, and shaped your future? Please comment and share your own success story with us!

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