Leaders have a critical choice to make: they can either look towards the future and take responsibility for strategic opportunities and problems that will arise in the business environment—or they can bury their heads in the sand and hope that the future will be kind.
Hope is not a winning business strategy. There are dozens of examples of once-successful businesses that came to ruin because they were unable to think about the future and adapt to what was coming. The only constant in our global economy is that businesses must be able to change—and those that don’t will go the way of the dinosaur.
How Can Leaders Best Serve The Organization?
Leaders serve the organization best when they design smart strategic plans and mobilize people to confront the future. Success requires a balance between two important skills: delivering results today and acting on opportunities that will deliver results tomorrow.
Leaders need to find new ways to operate to move the business forward. They need to think about new products, services, business extensions, or processes for the business’ existing practices. This requires leaders who are capable of thinking in entirely new ways. They must be able to discover new solutions to problems and develop new capabilities.
They must also inspire others to be innovative and experiment with new ideas in intelligent ways. Leaders who can evaluate risk and continue to move forward in the face of ambiguity will ensure the organization’s long-term success. The business environment grows more complex each day.
Characteristics of a Future-Focused Leader
Future-focused leaders anticipate changes in regulations, technology, and customer demands, and then they work hard to meet these challenges head-on. Future-focused leadership is founded on eight core beliefs:
- All competitive advantage and all customer value stem from the activities performed inside the business. The leader’s role is instrumental in driving the right activities that will make a difference.
- People and teams need to think and act like a business. They must remain focused on how to improve. They should constantly think about ways to be more efficient and effective.
- Strategic success requires creativity, critical thinking, hard work, discipline, the courage to be bold, and a little bit of good fortune.
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- Strategic initiatives unleash motivation. People want to be inspired. Thinking about the future gives people something to look forward to. It helps them to align their role and the actions they perform on a daily basis with the overarching, grand strategy of the business.
- Leaders must actively engage people and hold them accountable for making a personal contribution to the business’ strategy and long-term goals. Leaders lead the way. If leaders are unable to model the behavior required to move ahead amid uncertainty, the team won’t be able to make a significant contribution.
- Having a clear strategy drives future success. It must be created by leaders and filtered throughout the organization. Participation in corporate, “top-down” strategy formation isn’t enough to ensure long-term, sustained success.
- The strategy must be well-communicated, and all leaders must be strategically tuned into it. Managers will be able to actively shape their future success when they know the strategy inside out and understand what will drive future success for the business.
- Managers are responsible for running a piece of the business. They must set a strategic direction and figure out how their operation can evolve, contribute, and continue to be relevant to the organization.
CMOE has coached leaders and teams around the world to help them take the action needed to succeed in the future. We are committed to helping organizations build future-focused leaders that will ensure their long-term success. Contact CMOE to learn more about how we can help your business.