“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” – Harvey Firestone
Recently, the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Mark Welsh, noted: “Now more than any time in its history, the United States Air Force requires Airmen who are educated, trained, and empowered to challenge the status quo.” I would argue this can be said of any entity, organization, or corporation… so, who will continue the tradition of excellence originally passed to us as leaders?
As leaders, our responsibility is three-fold.
First: recognize the global landscape is rapidly changing—we must remain nimble and innovative to anticipate, posture, and adjust—in order to:
Second: recruit the best and brightest sons and daughters the world has to offer, and…
Third: engage these individuals in a focused and intentional leadership development program to ensure our young leaders are able and equipped to lead our country as we march toward the 22nd Century.
In a recent movie….Skyfall, a senior member of Britain’s MI-6 is describes the future as she sees it:
“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do. And the truth is that… what I see frightens me. I´m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on the map, they´re not nations. They´re individuals. Look around you. Who do you fear? Can you see a face? A uniform? A flag? No. Our world is not transparent now, is more opaque, it´s in the shadows. That´s where we … battle. So… how safe do you feel?”
Strategically: The above statement resonates; especially in light of what the U.S. has witnessed in the last decade: the rise of China and India, Russia’s resurgence on the world stage, Europe’s (de)evolution, and globalization’s powerful and unpredictable effects across national, cultural and religious dimensions. How are we equipping our young leaders to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s global landscape? Realistically, a number of our college students, young 18-25 year olds…. will be in leading in the year 2050–the half way mark to the 22nd Century. By then, they’ll be tomorrow’s leaders in the leadership positions we hold today. And they will, in turn, be developing the leaders of the beginning of the 22nd century.
The 22nd century and our generation – one degree of separation: Our responsibility as early twenty-first century leaders, then, is clear. What we do today will have an impact on our organization -and the world- one hundred years from now.
Now the big question: What skills, skill sets, behavior styles, perspectives, values, sensibilities, and experiences must tomorrow’s leaders have and develop to be successful then? Do we need technical experts or adaptive leaders–or both and at what cost? We need to ponder this.
Tomorrow’s leaders will be guiding the policies and will be our lasting legacy. How are we equipping them to be leaders for tomorrow? One thing seems certain, these individuals will face crisis, complexity, and confusion with the pace of change and globalization continuing at a rate much faster than we can possibly imagine today.
In the near term scholars point to big changes:
In a 26 Nov 2012, Economist essay, The Great Power Shift, Thomas W. Malnight and Tracey S. Keys point to a number of issues future leaders face. There are growing levels of social unrest over rising inequality, austerity, unemployment, political ineptitude, institutional failure and more.
Power will flow away from traditional institutions that have failed to deliver progress – especially governments. It will flow towards communities and individuals, and also to businesses whose leaders understand and act on the big trends shaping our future.
Volatile: change will happen rapidly and on a large scale
Uncertain: the future cannot be predicted with any precision
Complex: challenges are complicated by many interrelated factors and there are few single causes or solutions
Ambiguous: there is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have
As we survey the next few decades, it becomes clear we need leaders that can understand and thrive in the uncertain and unstable environment. The future demands leaders that are intelligent, adaptable, flexible, and resilient with varied skill sets.
This is no longer simply a leadership training challenge (what good leadership looks like), it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds).
Operational: For any leader, his/her leadership ability determines the effectiveness of the organization. Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell coined this concept, the “law of the lid.” If an individual’s leadership is strong, his/her lid is high and their organization functions well. But if his/her leadership is weak, then the organization is limited. This is why in time of troubles the organization naturally looks for new leadership. What are today’s leaders doing to ensure we are developing individuals with the highest “lid” potential? Are we being as intentional and deliberate as we should be? What is our focus as an institution?
We can take Maxwell’s lid concept and use it as an acronym: Leadership Identification and Development (LID). This concept is something an organization might take on as a top priority.
In our resource constrained environment, we must look for LID options that leverage other organizations, require few resources, are low cost, produce observable results, and ignite passion within our young leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
Tactical—and the road forward: Dr Tim Elmore asks: What is the biggest difference between checkers and chess? It’s the pieces. Anyone who wants to win in chess has to first learn how each piece moves. Once we understand the ability of each chess piece, we can plan a strategy to capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of each piece to win the game.
Great leaders understand that you cannot get the best out of people by playing “checkers” with them—treating them all alike, expecting the same things out of each of them, and handling them like a generic product on a shelf. Just like in chess, great leaders discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.
Capitalizing on each of a young leaders’s strengths accomplishes many things for the organization. First, it saves time. Second, it makes others accountable by encouraging each to do their very best in their own area. Third, it builds a stronger sense of team, since the best teams are built around interdependency. We acknowledge we need assistance from others because they do things we can’t, or they can simply do it better based on their strengths. We can celebrate strengths and differences in everyone and bring true diversity to our organization. (i.e. a baseball team doesn’t need four shortstops!)
Think about it: a mediocre leader believes value must be taught. An excellent leader believes that the best is already inside of people— they just need to find it. So, while a mediocre leader’s goal is to overcome weaknesses, the excellent leader’s goal is to identify strength and focus on it.
Each potential leader is a proverbial work of art and it is the highest honor to assist in their development. When we get this right, we provide a great return on investment to the business, the organization, the Nation. As such we must help these leaders identify their strengths, and in turn, ensure those strengths are of value to the organization.
Recommendation: Every organization is different, yet every organization requires leadership. If an entity established a multi-dimensional leadership identification process (LID) followed with a robust leadership development program to assist in assessing potential leaders prior to an leadership position–it could not help but improve leadership capacity.
As part of the LID process, we must develop a deliberate road map toward implementation which could take years to fully realize ,but if your organization is not willing to take the first steps…years become decades and our generation of leaders becomes irrelevant and obsolete. As with any project, begin with a beta plan/battle test to evaluate the program before continuing with short-, mid-, and long-term implementation plans. In the short term, an organization must develop tools to identify future leaders, in the midterm develop these leaders using the LID concept nested beneath a strong leadership framework/vision, and in the long-term identify leadership traits your organization values.
Recommended program (LID)
- Leadership Aptitude Testing: designed to test a potential leader’s characteristics/traits: examples might include–ambition, assertiveness, leadership, problem solving, stress management and truthfulness
- Biodata: are factual questions about life and work experiences, as well as items involving opinions, values, beliefs, and attitudes that reflect a historical perspective
- Structured Interview: The aim of this approach is to ensure that each interview is presented with exactly the same questions in the same order. This ensures that answers can be reliably aggregated and that comparisons can be made with confidence between sample subgroups or between different survey periods
- Immediate Supervisors Assessment Worksheet: A grade sheet developed in order to standardize the a supervisors assessment
Finally: It is very likely that the project will not proceed perfectly at first, but we have the opportunity—no, the responsibility—to ensure our leadership legacy is passed on to the next generation of leaders who will see our organizations and our nation to 2050 and beyond…
“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi