Diversity of Thought Execution Leadership Self awareness Trust

Are you paid to think?

Self aware leaders understand the importance of letting people think for themselves.

“I don’t pay you to think; I pay you to execute.” — Old School CEO.

Earlier in my career, I spent four years in a company where that was the culture early on. 

I was on an expat assignment abroad, and part of my responsibilities was helping design en deliver interventions that would change the culture. 

The old-school CEO was no longer with the company, but his wake was still there. 

Taking responsibility for your emotional wake is forever since then one of my credos in life.

Telling people to execute and not to think is telling a human being that they don’t matter.

Imagine someone telling you you don’t matter.

Perhaps not flat out in your face while looking in your eyes, but indirectly.

I can tell you that nobody would tell you that flat out in your face because people who think this way are emotionally underdeveloped and cowards.


Every time someone interrupts you, this person is basically telling you that you don’t matter.

Your words, thoughts, ideas, perspective, objections, and even your approval, don’t matter.

If they did, they wouldn’t interrupt you. 

And every time you interrupt someone, the same applies.

Your providing the receiver with the feeling, perhaps not consciously, but definitely unconsciously, that this person doesn’t matter.


You might think I’m tempted to say yes, but I’m not. 

That’s how firm I am about this.

Interrupting is disrespectful and indicates to the other person you don’t value their opinion. 

That they don’t matter.

It also tells the other person you’re not a good listener.

That’s where the problem starts.

Because those people who don’t listen well are often also not open to feedback on their impact on others. 

They’re too consumed with themselves even to consider that allowing the other person to think may create a win-win for all parties involved. 

When you set up the right conditions, people will think for themselves.

Leaders have a responsibility to allow people to think for themselves.

Because, more often than not, the solution to any problem is already inside the person.

It might just be more convenient to ask someone else to provide the solution.

Or perhaps someone else wants to make all the decisions, pretends to have all the answers, is not easy to trust people, or is a bullying manager.

Or all of the above.

So we spoon-feed those types of people with our problems.

They prefer it. We have a problem less. 

But nobody grows. 

And the solution still might not be the right solution. 

Self-aware leaders understand this. 

They understand the importance of letting people think for themselves.

They know that the quality of their interaction with someone significantly impacts the quality of that person’s thinking.

The better they listen, be silent, and ask good questions, the better the solutions the person comes up with.

Everybody wins.

Your turn: Are you paid to think? 

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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