“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” – Harvey Firestone
Blogger’s Note: This piece was written almost a decade ago—sometimes it is good to go back and review—has anything changed?
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.
The Center for Creative Leadership notes in their paper: Future Trends in Leadership Development… the leaders we are developing today will face a landscape that is:
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
7 Replies to “Meeting the Future Before It Gets Here…a plea for today’s leaders… DeMarco Banter”
Looks great! A thoughtful treatise to motivate discussion and hopefully action–still think the characteristics under “leadership aptitude testing” are not necessarily complete or accurate, but simply searching for the elements of leadership aptitude is a worthy aim…good luck!
Agree Tork… let me modify a tad…the actual traits will require a larger group to come to consensus. Thank you…happy 2013
This is probably my favorite thought-piece that you have put out there. There is a lot to think about, and if this article doesn’t get the juices flowing, I am not sure what will. I would love to see how programs like this could be implemented. It all comes down to having the right people in the right places at the right time when you are dealing with a cultural change. Right now, most of those factors seem to be in place, and there is no better time than now, right? The biggest issue I see will be in the personality types involved. Those who thrive on the empirical or systematic (engineer mindset/scientific approach) might look at only the black and white, rather than the grey areas. Solid training for those implementing the method must be paramount.
Overall, this is by far your best banter, at least in my opinion. It makes me very happy knowing that the there are leaders in place who want to shake things up; not necessarily be counter-cultural, but break cycles and systems that direct energy in the wrong way. Maybe that is counter-cultural, but it doesn’t matter…I hate labels anyway.
Thanks Vooj…as you know this is something I am pretty passionate about. We are looking at ways to implement now…we have another paper that is very specific as to where we want to target. Please feel free to share and see what sort of thoughts we can get…
As always thanks for the comments
Several great points in this that should create some good discussion. I agree with Tork, while I am very skeptical that we can search for a true set of attributes that will predict good leadership, just having the discussion raises awareness and therefore highlights potential. Keep the discussion going!
Coach: Came across this list somewhere… and I keep on tweaking it…
1. Great leaders have vision
2. They can see into the future.
3. They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish and are excellent at strategic planning.
The quality of courage means that you are willing to take risks in the achievement of your goals with no assurance of success
There is no certainty in life or business, every commitment you make and every action you take entails a risk of some kind.
Courage is the most identifiable outward trait
The core of integrity is truthfulness.
Integrity requires that you always tell the truth, to all people, in every situation.
Truthfulness is the foundation quality of the trust that is necessary for the success of any business.
Humility doesn’t mean that you’re weak or unsure of yourself.
It means that you have the self-confidence and self awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened.
It means that you are willing to admit you could be wrong, that you recognize you may not have all the answers.
And it means that you give credit where credit is due.
Leaders have the ability to anticipate trends, well in advance of their competitors.
They continually ask, ‘‘Based on what is happening today, where is the market going? Where is it likely to be in three months, six months, one year, and two years?’’ through thoughtful strategic planning.
Because of increasing competitiveness, only the leaders and organizations that can accurately anticipate future markets can possibly survive.
Only leaders with foresight can gain the ‘‘first mover advantage.’’
Leaders always focus on the needs of the company and the situation.
Leaders focus on results, on what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the company.
Great leaders focus on strengths, in themselves and in others.
They focus on the strengths of the organization, on the things that the company does best in satisfying demanding customers in a competitive marketplace.
Your ability as a leader to call the shots and make sure that everyone is focused and concentrated on the most valuable use of their time is essential to the excellent performance of the enterprise.
Your ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to your success.
Leadership is the ability to get people to work for you because they want to.
Gain the cooperation of others by making a commitment to get along well with each key person every single day.
You always have a choice when it comes to a task: You can do it yourself, or you can get someone else to do it for you.