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How Leaders Should Follow the News

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Every month seems to bring big news that we must watch or read. The news media is, after all, in the advertising business, so they do the best job they can to entice us to watch and read their latest “top story.” And while the number of viewing options has grown, and the number of ways we can consume the news has changed, we are still watching.

Yep that’s us, watching and reading the news.

I’ve found that people have a variety of opinions about the news, ranging from “I need to stay on top of what’s going on” to “I don’t want to watch any of it—it depresses me.” Many purveyors of positive thinking and time management advice lean toward the later response—either “don’t watch it because it is all negative” or “watching it is largely a waste of time.”

I agree with both of those viewpoints … to a point.

As leaders, whatever group or organizations we are leading, we need to have an understanding of what is going on around us. We need to be informed, aware and observant. As leaders we must have inputs that inform us about the world around us so that we can make (or help others make) better decisions. Yet I agree that too much news is a waste of time and will possibly dampen your positive thinking or outlook.

What is my answer to this balancing act then?

I can only accurately tell you what I try to do to walk this balance beam. Consider these six strategies:

  • Limit your input. Think of your news input like a part of your thinking diet (which it is). Determine what you need to know, then turn it off, turn the page, or turn off your device. One way to do this is to use some technology, from email to newsfeeds or whatever, to get headlines. Headlines may be all you need for awareness. This also means not getting sucked into long water cooler conversations about the news of the day that don’t serve you or your thinking.
  • Pick key sources. Pick news source(s) you find helpful. Along with general news, think about what you need for your business or work. That might mean The Wall Street Journal or a daily source in your industry.  By picking key sources you help limit total intake too.
  • Choose different first daily inputs. The first thoughts of your day are extra important. Don’t make the negative news of the day be your first input.
  • Look for the positives. The news media leads with negative, because negative sells (remember what business they are in). That doesn’t mean there aren’t positives—it just means we may need to look for them. Consider this good practice: the practice of looking for opportunities that exist in every challenge or problem.
  • Think critically about what you read/watch. Don’t just take it in—think about whether or not you agree with the assertions, conclusions or perspectives of the reporters and think about the implications for you and your organization. Ask yourself, “What is the message and importance of this to us in our business, community, (etc.)?”
  • Look for learning. How can you use this information? How does it connect to your experience? Specifically as a leader, what are you seeing leaders do well that you would like to emulate in your world, and what do you avoid completely? When you watch the news through this mental filter, it isn’t a time-waster at all, it is real-time learning.

Regardless of your current news consumption habits, I hope this has been helpful. Think about the news as an opportunity for information, but also thinking and learning. Leaders are synthesizers of news, not just consumers of it.

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