Two of my life’s great pleasures are sharing experiences with long-range planning and helping leaders reach into the future in a systematic way.
Here are a few highlights from a workshop that will be conducted this week.
First on the future:
• Leaders should spend an hour or two each month reaching out at least five years into the future. If they do so, they are likely to see opportunities long before others who are bogged down with day-to-day problems.
Too many leaders spend every minute of their busy days dealing with short-term issues, handling crises, answering their emails and attending meeting after meeting after meeting. They are fine leaders at the tactical level, but generally do poorly at the important strategic level.
The future is coming at us fast – like a speeding freight train. If we don’t jump on board, we are likely to be run over or pushed aside.
• Leaders can make the future their friend by regularly doing brainstorming exercises, both oral and computer-based. They are easy to set up and take only a couple of hours. They not only bring new ideas to the surface but also help you identify those among you who are especially creative.
When you conduct these exercises, be sure to bring in a few outsiders who will bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the process.
• Everyone in a leadership position and everyone who aspires to be a leader should join the World Future Society (wfs.org) and read its monthly magazine, The Futurist.
SECOND, ON leadership:
• The best leaders are those of strong moral character who trust their associates and show a sincere and sustained commitment to their mission, their people and their customers, both internal and external.
• Leaders who use leverage as a daily activity often find great success.
Leverage friends by having a large and robust brain trust (300 is a good number) of really smart and helpful people. Be sure to have their email addresses, phone numbers and their snail-mail addresses.
Leverage technology by using the very best computers, cell phones, software programs and applications (some recommendations: an iPhone, an iPad and a Kindle Fire).
Leverage your intellect by reading at least one good book each month (see list below).
Leverage your time by getting rid of the junk in your life – too much television, golf or Facebook.
Leverage your energy by staying in good physical shape.
Leverage your electronic workspace by “batching” your activities (disciplined concentration).
Leverage your compassion by reaching out to people who are hurting.
• Everyone should work hard to enhance leadership skills by observing, reading and attending leadership conferences and workshops. An outstanding and inexpensive leadership conference is held each autumn in Black Mountain, N.C.: the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership. The setting is beautiful; it is held at the best time of the year; and there is an uplifting atmosphere year after year.
THE SPEAKERS this year (Oct. 10-12) are the best ever. Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs; world-class motivational speaker Mark Miller (vice president of Chick-fil-A); and Jeanne Robertson are three of the keynote speakers. If you decide to attend, do not leave early – the last keynote speaker, on Friday morning, is really, really funny. A former Miss North Carolina, Jeanne Robertson captures her audience within the first 30 seconds.
The website for the conference is www.blueridgeleadership.com. You may wish to sign up soon – there still are some openings.
The following books are recommended to anyone who wants to be uplifted or desires to reach into the future for ideas, opportunities and just plain fun.
• Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader. A classic book on leadership.
• Max Depree, Leadership is an Art. A short, uplifting book that is crammed full of insights.
• Peter Collier, Medal of Honor. Be sure to get the third edition, which includes two of the recent living recipients of America’s highest award for combat heroism.
• Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. A welcome analysis that refutes those who constantly preach gloom and doom.
• Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near. A terrible title to a terrific book. For those who love technology, this may be the book for you. One caution: This is not an easy read.
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – commanded an F-15 fighter wing and served as the top Air Force planner. Of his six published books, Rules and Tools for Leaders, with 350,000 copies in print, is the most successful. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is genpsmith.com)