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. 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?
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.
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 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 a globally connected marketplace.
Foresight: Survival of the Optimists
“Optimists have a sixth sense for possibilities that realists can’t or won’t see.” ~ Warren Bennis, leadership professor
There is a dramatic difference between people who react to roadblocks with a sense of futility and pessimism and those who react with determination and optimism. Psychologist Martin Seligman has validated that the most successful business leaders are inspired by a sense of optimism.
Those who learn to be optimistic about life and work are far more likely to be successful than those who view a current event through the pessimist’s lens. Being optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring reality or the hardships required to get great results. Leaders can define a business reality, yet defy a negative verdict. By being optimists, leaders give people the hope, energy and strength needed to carry on.
The more you understand reality, the more prepared you are to endure hardships and adversity. Optimism, and a vision for what’s possible, supplies the energy to keep going, persist through challenges and come out on the other side.
One of the best ways to expand your potential leadership abilities is to work with an executive coach, who can help you see what you don’t yet see. An experienced coach will stimulate your thinking and conversations about what’s possible.