After reading about my articles about foresight in leadership and how to apply foresight, some readers have told me that given their position in their organization, they don’t see how it applies to them. I used to feel the same way as a project manager. After all, I was never responsible for creating the vision of a project; I was simply fulfilling another’s idea. How much impact could my foresight have?
As I started to reflect on my leadership roles, however, I concluded that foresight actually did have a role in my success as a PM (project manager). Here are four practical examples:
- Hold vision for the team: It’s easy for a team to get lost in the minutia of the daily grind of a project. The PM’s role is to hold up that vision and keep the team’s eyes on the prize; to be a good steward of the vision we have been entrusted with; to remind the team of the higher purpose for their work. Sometimes that means inviting the person who is most fired up by the vision to share their passion with the others. Whatever the tactic, holding vision is the role of a leader and a part of the practice of foresight.
- Gather lessons learned: Spending time and energy in the past, examining the good, bad and ugly, can be moments of truth for a leader. This will not only help direct plans and changes for the future, it will also help predict what is coming. Contributing thoughtfully during a meeting about lessons learned is a perfect way to practice servant-leadership.
- Foresee consequences: Having the foresight to understand the consequences of our actions or words is a key practice of an effective leader. In difficult situations, especially, the first reaction may be to defend oneself, blame others and practice other old patterns. Servant-leaders learn to listen to our intuitive “second thoughts” and foresee the impact of our actions.
- Anticipate what those above you want/need: This is essentially “serving up” as described by Captain Michael D. Abrashoff in It’s Your Ship, “If you want to achieve anything in a large bureaucracy, get inside the bosses’ heads. Anticipate what they want before they know they want it. Take on their problems; make them look so good that you become indispensable.” Observing the boss’s actions will enable leaders in all positions to successfully anticipate and “serve up.”
Remember, in all four of these situations, practice the three steps of foresight: (1) Learn everything you can, (2) Let the information marinate and (3) Share your hunches. The foresight that emerges will make you an invaluable resource and the type of leader people want to follow.