Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Looking to the Future: Are Your Feet on the Ground or in the Clouds?

Looking to the Future: Are Your Feet on the Ground or in the Clouds?

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The Realist

The Realist is rather the opposite of the Dreamer. The Realist is very keen to make sure that things happen, and will go out of their way to chase actions, make plans and get stuff done – useful people to have in your organization.

However, the Realist doesn’t let themselves be bothered by the long term. Doing today’s work as well as possible is their aim. They might think that long-term hopes and dreams are a recipe for disappointment, or that any long-term goal will inevitably be thwarted by others in power. They may (with some justification) agree that whatever will be will be. However, our thoughts today about possible futures can certainly influence what we do.

The Business Planner

The Business Planner orientation is not as prevalent as it once was, but does still appear in some situations. Business plans are (or used to be) concerned with things on a middlefuture timescale (one to three years). What is the cash flow for year one? How much profit may appear in year two? And given all that, how much might the business be worth at the end of year three?

The phrase “given all that” is the big giveaway here. By looking at a middle timescale, the plan can take our eyes off the most important areas. In a moving, complex and uncertain world, the classical business plan is only as good as its assumptions.

These exercises can easily turn into mere arithmetic and rapidly become detached from reality, with the Business Planner spending much of their time in “ant country” – our phrase for the middle distance where things are too complex to predict in detail.

This leads us nicely onto a fourth, alternative concept which might provide some much needed relief from the limitations of the three approaches we’ve discussed so far. It is that of leading as a Host.

The Host

Hosts are always open to changes and uncertainty. When we organise a party we know the big picture – the kind of event we want – and the next steps. We can’t, however, predict exactly what we will be doing at 8.37pm. This is why we focus all the time on stepping forward and back, on manoeuvrability and flexibility. And we don’t get bogged down in “ant country.” So, the Host will use the future in this fashion:

Focusing on the near future – practical next steps and signs of progress – and the distant future – hopes, intentions and their precursors – is the trademark of a good Host. So next time you are discussing the future, why not think more like a Host?
This is an adapted extract from new book “Host: Six new roles of engagement for teams, organizations, communities and movements” co-written by Dr Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey, published on 6 October 2014 by Solutions Books in paperback (£11.99) and Kindle formats.

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