checkmarkHow do successful leaders do it? It’s the question we all ask. We all want to tap into their lessons and shamelessly steal their best practices. We study how great leaders in history have thought and talked. We read case studies and pore over profile articles in magazines and blogs like this. We look for clues.

Inc. magazine inadvertently offered up a practical, important insight: Successful leaders intentionally take time to plan and reflect. Several recent blog posts chronicled how current leaders in Silicon Valley start work on Monday morning. (The first post focused on male leaders—inadvertently—and was rapidly followed by a similar survey of women leaders.)

To a person, the leaders Inc. magazine profiled pause on Sunday night or Monday morning to reflect, plan and prioritize. They don’t hit the week ready to take what comes; they hit the week with intention of what they will create. It’s not 50% of the leaders or 75% of the leaders who say this…it’s 100%. They use their own words and their own practices—some meditate, some write lists, some plan while swimming, some do it alone and some with their teams—but the insight for all of us wannabes is that they take the time to intentionally think through what they will focus on in the week ahead.

At Insight Experience, we watch simulation teams of very experienced leaders jump into decision making, react to every twist in the market or their organization and lose perspective on what they are trying to achieve. We force them to pause and approach the task in a different way.

The pace of our lives and the stimuli of our worlds make reactive leadership an easy default mode. The harder task, what separates the great from the good, is being able to step back and be intentional about what matters. That’s a great skill to learn and to practice.


Amanda Young Hickman is co-founder of Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.