One of the challenges of our role as leaders is the need to think about today and tomorrow. Leaders who focus too much on today will sacrifice tomorrow and leaders who over invest in the future jeopardize today.
This heads up – future orientation and heads down – today orientation, is a tricky balance to strike. Ken Blanchard shared with me why he believes this is such a significant challenge…
The present always pushes out the future.
Someone or something is always clamoring for the attention of the leader. Although responding to the latest crisis is a significant part of the leader’s role, it cannot become our primary role.
How can you and I keep the future on our agenda today? Here are five ideas…
Embrace your role as the architect of the future. I think I can make a compelling case for this as our primary role. If we get caught in the trap of today, we can easily forfeit this cornerstone role. If leaders don’t create a compelling future for our organization, the chances are high, it will never exist.
Audit your calendar frequently. How much time are we investing in the future? This can take many forms. Just last week, our leadership team invested two days reviewing our leadership bench and creating development plans for about 100 leaders. That’s time invested in the future.
Empower others to manage today. Yes, you and I will be involved in today, but others should manage the details. The details of today are exactly the activities that can steal your future. The classic line to represent this idea is from Michael Gerber – “Leaders need to work on their business not in their business.”
Communicate the vision at EVERY opportunity. This keeps the future at the top of our minds as leaders, and it informs the decisions of the men and women managing today. It will help them see the linkage between their work and the future.
Schedule time to create the future. Envisioning and creating the future is not a hobby for leaders nor should it be extracurricular. Don’t feel guilty putting future oriented activities on your calendar regularly – feel guilty if you don’t.
Heads up – heads down is a tension to be managed. We must do both. As these comments reveal, I don’t think your challenge or mine will be how to focus on today – that’s the nature of our world. The real challenge and the ultimate value we bring is to focus on the future.
We must escape the instant gratification of solving today’s problems. We’ve got to pull up in order to create the future… that’s what leaders do.
Look at the last 30 days and the next 30 days. How much time are you investing to create the future?
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