How to Become a "First-Class Noticer."

June 27, 2022

How to Become a "First-Class Noticer."

May 29, 2023

Leadership guru Warren Bennis said long ago that the best leaders are "first-class noticers," a term he borrowed from Saul Bellow's novel "The Actual." He was referring to the idea that a combination of fresh eyes and a wise soul can help a leader see things in people and an organization that aren't as noticeable to others.

Management theorist Peter Drucker amplified this idea of the first-class noticer by saying most business leaders are overtrained in analysis and undertrained in perception. They know how to think, but they haven't been trained in how to see and, I might add, feel.

At MEA, we love Saul Bellow's phrase when it comes to modern elders, as our curiosity breaks us out of our habitual way of seeing the world. As we get older, we often turn a blind eye to people and things. We become worried about the risk of destabilizing the status quo or following the old premise that says, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Of course, this line of thinking means that our ability to notice things—in ourselves, others, and the overall feeling of a group—starts to dull. And a dull stylus doesn't make beautiful music.

So, how do we keep our stylus fine-tuned? I love this quote from James Elkins in his book, "The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing:"

"The opposite of a glance...is a glimpse: because in a glance, we see only for a second,
and in a glimpse, the object shows itself only for a second."


My patron saint of organizational theory, Abraham Maslow used the word "glimpse" to describe how we peek at our peak but often recoil almost out of a fear of success. He wrote, "We fear our highest possibility. We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments."

Most people glance.

How about you? Are you open to glimpsing? Catching a glimpse of your daughter's lovely soul. Opening your aperture to notice and feel the energy of your leadership team. Maybe you could imagine your ideal life and take a glimpse at where you'll be (and who you'll be with) ten years from now.

A first-class noticer is mindful and patient enough to catch a glimpse long enough for their pattern-recognizing intuition to offer them the wisdom they need at that moment. Live in that place, and your presence will genuinely become a present to those who surround you.

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