Leadership professors Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes, after surveying thousands of people on ideal leadership qualities, reveal that the ability to look forward is second only to honesty as the most admired trait.
On average, 70 percent of workers worldwide select “forward-looking” as a key leadership competency. Think about the leaders you’ve followed or admired. The great ones are visionaries who serve as custodians of the future. You want to partner with leaders who can create a better future.
As we age, gain more experience and move up the organizational hierarchy, our desire for a forward-looking leader increases, according to Posner and Kouzes. While only about one-third of undergraduate college students ranked “forward-looking” among their most important leadership attributes, more than 90 percent of senior executives had added it to their lists.
Some leaders are naturally future-oriented strategists; many others excel as executors or talent managers. Still others shine at getting things done and making things happen; others bring out the best in people.
While achieving great results with people is always rewarding, it’s not enough for promotion to higher levels of responsibility and leadership. To take that step, you must expand your ability to communicate a vision for the future. Forward-looking leaders can spot opportunities in their day-to-day work, and they excel at anticipatory thinking.
How Far Can You See?
It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of each moment. Do you look beyond what’s in front of you — especially when daily tasks take up so much time and energy?
How do you become future-oriented and still handle day-to-day challenges? This is something we work on frequently with clients.
While the ability to focus on the future separates leaders from the rank-and-file, many of us fail to understand and appreciate its importance. We devote almost no time to developing this vital quality, which then becomes a huge barrier to future success.
The challenge of being forward-looking escalates with each managerial level. Front-line supervisors are expected to anticipate events about three months ahead. Mid-level managers have timelines for more complex projects and need to look three to five years into the future. Those in the executive suites must focus on goals that are often 10+ years away.