Of the many skills critical for great leadership, perhaps none is more important than the skill of pattern recognition. The cognitive ability to scan the environment, discern order, and then create meaning from enormous amounts of data allows leaders to quickly assess a situation and take the appropriate action to address it or take advantage of it.
When things reliably repeat themselves, we can say a pattern exists. Finding a pattern requires concerted study and experience matters. The more occurrences of anything a leader is exposed to, the more likely it is they will be able to discern a pattern if one exists.
Great decision-makers attempt to find new patterns before anyone else notices them. This gives them the competitive advantage of pursuing opportunities or avoiding pitfalls related to the pattern that others have yet to discern.
In addition to commercial endeavors, exceptional leaders seek to understand the patterns displayed by people. By recognizing the patterns employed by others in arenas like decision-making, work processes, and advocacy, leaders can anticipate what will likely happen before it does. This allows them to become more effective by tailoring their messages and actions to address the impact made by the pattern.
As with so many other complex skills, the best way to get better at pattern recognition is to practice it a lot. Looking for patterns everywhere, such as in art, nature, math, business, society, and competitions, strengthens the skill. Those who are on the constant search for patterns get better at seeing them.
Surprisingly, when asked to discern patterns from the human data displayed throughout the team, many leaders are at a loss to recognize the consistency of how team members approach and engage situations, decisions, conversations, work processes, and each other. These leaders are not necessarily weak at pattern recognition. They just don’t do it often enough.
The chain reaction of pattern recognition draws upon both stored experience and objective observation to give relief to otherwise random information. The best leaders are astute observers who are always looking for new patterns. They get this way by choice and intention. The more a leader searches for patterns, the better they get at recognizing them.
To most effectively understand, anticipate, and act, we must perceive patterns. Good leaders take the time to practice that skill every day.
We took 15 minutes to discuss today's Field Notes. You can listen to the audio here: