Listening for the Future


Listening Leaders - 1Great leaders are always “listening for the future” all the while staying grounded in the here and the now.

That sounds impressive and insightful.  But what does it mean?  Simply, it means that our society is evolving into a noisy, chaotic world; characterized by “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (This is what “Futurist” Bob Johansen refers to as “VUCA”).

Elements of the VUCA paradigm have existed throughout history, but never to the extent evident in the early 21st century.  Leaders who make decisions without regard to VUCA realities tend to exhibit various “dysfunctional and dangerous” attitudes and reactions, including fear, disdain, procrastination, frustration, anger and denial.  And I am not exactly sure where the anger is strongest.  Is it on the side of those who loath their leaders?  Or is it on the side of the leaders who loath the burden of leadership?

Nevertheless, there are enduring leadership principles that will hold you in good stead during these VUCA times.  Consider the following:

  • To be on time is to be late. – Get there early.  Get there before your team arrives and be ready to greet them as they arrive for the day or for the meeting.
  • Always start on time.  – Don’t punish those who are on time for the sins of those who are late.  And don’t go back over what you have already covered for those who do arrive late.
  • Mental gymnastics.  – Build leadership skills through leadership thoughts.  Read and study other great leaders.
  • Listening Leaders - 2Actively listen.  – But carefully filter what you hear.  Make sure that in the midst of your listening that you are not swayed by an emotional message that takes you away from your core values.
  • Be ready for action.  – We are living in a fast paced world and in the face of uncertainty, preparedness is a great benefit.
  • Practice “urgent patience”. – Know when to press forward and when to ease up on your team.
  • Be a storyteller. – Use compelling stories to inspire hope in your team.
  • Observe synchronicity. – Nothing occurs in a vacuum.  So explain connections and patterns to help others find the reason for your actions.
  • Stay positive.  – It is easy to succumb to the negativity that surrounds us.  We get a steady diet of it on the news and from the media.  Do not dwell on this.  [I could speak at length here about the importance of being in some type of daily devotional reading, but I will save that for another time and place.]
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin.  – You cannot directly lead a multitude.  So, find a small group of leaders to develop and pour yourself into them and make them into great leaders.  Don’t make them clones.  Make them leaders.

To lead with success in the face of these societal shifts, future leaders must implement a more positive VUCA made up of “vision, understanding, clarity and agility.”  The need for these new leaders who are visionary in scope, understanding and compassionate, clear in their thinking and direction, and agile and responsive is increasing because people will have an urgent need for stability and certainty in the frightening face of volatile and uncertain times.   Regrettably, there will always be leaders who are clear, certain, and yet still wrong.

What is the future saying to you?  Are you listening?  What are you doing to be a listening leader for the future?

Photo credit: Beverly & Pack / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: DaveFayram / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: CarbonNYC / Foter / CC BY

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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