Directness, authenticity and a calm and cool communication style are leadership practices that deliver real results, while making an impact on the lives of the stakeholders you serve. Yet what makes leaders with those qualities stand out from the group and inspire people to follow them?
The answer I’ve arrived upon is that foresight is the difference. As servant leadership innovator Robert Greenleaf said, “foresight is the ‘lead’ in leader.'” It is a better than average guess about what is going to happen in the future, and when it will happen. It is the ability to perceive the significance and nature of events before they have occurred and to chart the course based on those perceptions.
A leader with foresight is completely present in the activities and events of today (concerned, involved, responsible and aware), connected to the past and can see it all projected into the future.
Being able to connect at these multiple levels doesn’t happen by accident. It takes consistent and intentional action and practice to lead from that mindset. Ken Blanchard’s book The Servant Leader describes the leadership habit of regularly retreating in order to clear the mind and be open to thoughts, ideas, expressions, visions for the future.
“We may get the concept of foresight, but then we come face to face with the day-to-day urgency of events and we get caught up in lots of reactive fire-fighting actions. We excuse ourselves by saying ‘we’re so busy, we don’t have time for this’.” (Daniel Kim)
Without foresight, a leader is only reacting to immediate events, rather than leading people through them with purpose and direction. All too often, leaders operate in this transactional or reactive mode. Request made, request fulfilled. Action item identified, action item assigned and completed.
A transactional approach to leadership can be very successful, particularly for complex and multi-layered projects. Yet the real opportunity of leadership is to be a transformational part of the organization and this can be achieved in large part through the practice of foresight. Most leaders don’t realize the impact they can have to the organization and on the lives of its people when foresight is applied.
When we decide this November who will lead our country for the next four years as our president, we are looking for the person we trust. We are looking for the person who appears to see a little further ahead. When this leader says, “Come, follow me,” we respond because we trust both the person and their vision of the future their foresight.
The people who you lead are starving for foresight, and the possibilities are truly endless for how your vision could influence people and how things get done. Stay tuned for three additional blog posts that will help you apply this crucial leadership principle.