This is part one in a four part series on being more future focused in our planning. This illustration is part of the booklet How to Change the World.
Many organization leaders take great comfort in rear view leadership.
It feels safe. We know what to expect. (At least that’s what we tell ourselves and our team.)
Our over optimistic belief that we can continue to do what we’ve always done is a crutch, at best. It gives us a false sense of security. Sometimes repeating the past works for another year or two. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that it never worked.
Our Bias Towards Status Quo
Our belief in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” results in lollygagging laggard leadership.
Our leaders hobble on a faux walking stick—their past experiences and bias serves as their crutch for support. They zone in on the past, the predictable, the known. They immediately jump to action diving squarely into the daily operations of the organization. It’s familiar territory at least.
But, and it’s a big butt…They frequently miss the obvious. The world around them continues to shift. They don’t even realize that their context has changed.
Leading By Driving Into The Future Blindly
Organizational governance suffers the most when leaders focus on rear view mirror direction instead of scanning the road ahead. Always looking backwards can lead to negligence.
Sure we need a balance of looking to the past and considering the future.
However, most leaders commit the majority of their time to looking to the past to plan the future. They are unable to visualize the entire picture.
We have been trained to concentrate on What was? instead of What If? Engineers and accountants struggle with future focus since they’ve been trained to be deterministic. They focus on knowledge-driven outcomes because all acts are caused by something else.
One only has to take a look at the board agenda to see this ancient predictable ghost. Many association board agendas look eerily similar to those of decades ago. They focus most of their time on audits, budgets, compliance, quarterly reports and reviews of committee and staff work. Their time and energy looks at “What was”?
Instead, leadership should focus on those things that matter the most to the organization’s future.
They should set their gaze out in front.
They should lead and learn together in uncharted territories.
They should try on What If? strategies and questions.
They should create new maps and paths.
Future Focused Forward Learning
Our leadership needs to put their energy toward the future focused direction of the organization and its customers. Not just the traditional fiduciary oversights that usually looks backwards.
Boards (and leaders) need to understand as much as possible about the plausible impact of the forces of societal transformation and learn how to harness them for the benefit of their organizations and stakeholders. While the duty of foresight may never become a recognized legal duty of nonprofit boards, it is clearly an essential strategic duty and, arguably, a moral obligation to both association stakeholders and society. Chief Strategist, Jeff De Cagna.
What future focused traits should we consider as we recruit leaders? Why is foresight such a worthy new tradition to embrace?