When I’m working with clients, we look at ways to expand leadership qualities, and in particular, their ability to become more future-oriented. The answer is to spend more time thinking about the future, but this is harder than it may seem at first.
There are three ways to expand your ability to become more future-oriented and hone your leadership effectiveness. In The Truth About Leadership(Jossey-Bass, 2010), Posner and Kouzes urge readers to spend time learning about the future through:
Insight: Explore Your Past
This exercise that follows will help you connect your past experiences and values with your current work. When you look backward, you can see farther ahead and imagine future possibilities.
Look for repeating themes in your life—the recurring messages that keep reminding you of what matters most. Search your past to find the theme. It will probably form the basis of your core values and higher purpose. When you know more about yourself, your dreams and your purpose, it will be easier to keep this information in mind each time you visualize the future.For younger leaders, there’s less past to recall; however, it’s still important to use the richness of your life experiences to uncover ideals.
Here are some questions to explore:
- Identify the recurring theme in your life.
- To which topic do you return again and again?
- What story do you keep telling and retelling?
- Take the Strengthfinder or Stand Out Assessment for more information/insight.
Outsight: Imagine the Possibilities
To be a credible leader, you need to spend more time reading, thinking and talking about long-term possibilities. Develop the discipline to put time in your schedule/calendar for the research and visioning – spend more time studying the future.
Establish a “future committee” dedicated to collecting ideas, articles, information and resources about trends affecting your organization. Track publications, both off- and online. Circulate these ideas to stimulate discussions and innovative thinking.
For example, The World Future Society recommends examination of six distinct business-trend categories:
Improve your understanding of the world around you, not just in your industry. A game-changing product in an unrelated field could impact your customers and their need for your services. No one can afford to be short-term–oriented in today’s globally connected marketplace.
These are two ways to become more future-oriented, a key leadership trait. In our next post, we’ll discuss a third way.