Leaders need to look farther out than anyone else. Too often they have a bias toward fiduciary responsibility — stuck in rearview mirror gazing. This causes our organizations to become prisoners of the past.
Encouraging our leaders to provide foresight, oversight and insight instead of just dilly-dallying with daily operations is critical to success. We can foster a culture that embraces future-focused leaders equipped with forward-thinking insights, then our organization has the strategic advantage it needs, especially as it plans for extraordinary results.
CLIMB EVERY FIRE LOOKOUT
We can invite our leadership to climb the virtual fire lookout tower. This will provide them the strategic perspective to see what’s next, what’s coming and plan for the future. As they climb and observe from that virtual tower, they can see any disrupting fires coming their way. And they can scan the horizons for the cool breezes of opportunity.
FIVE TIPS FOR FUTURE FOCUSED LEADERSHIP
McKinsey Quarterly authors Christian Casal and Christian Caspar say the best organization leaders act as sparring partners, effective coaches and curious challengers for their top team, staff and customers. Here are five tips, some amended from Casal and Caspar’s recommendations, to practice future-focused foresight.
1. Require organization leaders study the external landscape. Challenge your leadership to develop an outside-in view of the industry or profession. Invite recognized experts and professionals from various fields — technology, economics, learning, science — to present at their board meetings. Then ask leaders to connect the dots of the social backdrop to their field.
2. Make strategy part of the leaders’ DNA. One of the central roles of the board of directors is to converse, collaborate and ultimately co-create the organization’s strategy. The board should debate, discuss, refine and ultimately agree on that strategy. Staff can then prepare a menu of options that present varying degrees of resources and risks. Thus, the board and staff co-create and define a broad strategic framework.
3. Identify the organization’s target market — past, current and future — as well as their needs. This is a critical first step that is often overlooked by leadership. Frequently, leaders embark on great ideas for programs, products and services before the organization identifies their target market. They plan the what and how before they ever discuss the who and why.
Or they copy their competitor and try to compete on the same level.
Regardless, this thinking requires a heightened awareness of current and potential customers, their needs and how to mobilize resources to develop their capability and capacity. Then, leaders must scan the horizon and identify the business objectives of potential customers 12-24 months in advance.
4. Ensure that an organization’s programs, services and products align with its target market’s business objectives. Part of a leader’s strategic DNA is to understand their customer’s business objectives. Then, they guide the organization to fulfill those business needs through their services and offerings. If not, they risk missing the mark for their customers’ business growth and ultimately creating loyal customers.
5. Anticipate all the risks. Usually, boards are good at identifying and evaluating the normal competitive risks. They know who their opponents are. Yet rarely do boards anticipate the risks of staying the same. Savvy leaders evaluate the consequences of average and repeating the past.
And future-focused leaders don’t forget to consider the risks of today’s world like technology security breaches, viruses, economic decline, terrorism and natural disasters.
Jeff’s article was originally published on VelvetChainsaw.com, and can be found here.