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Hedgehogs and Foxes

>Hedgehogs and Foxes
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Category: Leadership Speaker
Published: 26th May 2016

Terence Mauri is a mentor, leadership speaker and a regular contributor for the local and national press including Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Media Pioneers. Here Terence draws on his most recent leadership book ‘The Leader’s Mindset’, looking at the traits and behaviours of outstanding leaders.

‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’

– Archilochus, 700 BC

How you think is as important as what you think, especially for growing a leader’s mindset. Leaders must tap into different thinking styles to learn quickly and cope in a world of flux; for example, they must develop big-picture thinking versus detail thinking. the late Oxford University professor Isaiah Berlin in his book ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’ drew upon the ancient metaphor by Greek poet Archilochus to describe the two distinct cognitive styles that can help you build critical advantages into your leadership style.

There’s always a risk of oversimplification when it comes to matters of the mind. The key is to ensure that you develop the right style for the right concept. Hedgehogs are left-brain thinkers: operationally driven, detail oriented, logical, and process led. They are essential for running a tight ship. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is a stalwart hedgehog. You need hedgehogs to maintain high operational standards, compliance, and efficient rules and processes.

Foxes are right-brain thinkers: opportunity driven, led by ideas, and people-oriented. They pursue moonshots, the crazy ideas that might just work. Richard Branson, the charismatic entrepreneur, is a quintessential fox. Smart leaders use the best elements of both to stay ahead. For example, to get the creative edge, an idea is generated by a fox, but the hedgehog is equally critical for providing a framework to help evaluate the fox’s right brain inspirations: are they realistic? What’s the budget? Can they be implemented? What’s the timeline?

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