Leadership: Preparing leaders for the exceptional future

George Satula
George Satula

Last updated on February 24th, 2022 at 01:05 pm

As a leader, you can only give 100% of yourself.

But that’s a misconception because you’re biological, not mechanical. That means you’re a limited resource, subject to day-to-day distractions, emotions and stress.

How can you do more with what you have and be better at it?

Focus on development and the numbers will follow

Whether you’re a CEO, a company president, or a department head, you must develop employees under you, not just train them. It’s an important priority equal to or greater than your operations, financials and sales.

People, your biggest asset, are also your biggest expense and risk. Together with company culture, they become your best strategic advantage.

Competitors might be able to reverse engineer your products, or even figure out some of your systems and procedures. But it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to replicate your company’s secret sauce: your people and culture.

It’s time to pivot

Motivational speaker and author Zig Zigler said, “If you help people succeed, you will succeed.” To put this in perspective, you will invest roughly 96,000 hours of your life during your entire career, so make it worthwhile!

Excellent leaders have many qualities and behaviors. However, in the more complex 21st century, you can’t use traditional problem-solving models in an untraditional new world.

The strategy for developing future leaders must change. Certainly, training tools like mentor programs, stretch goal challenges, rotation assignments and offsite strategy meetings still have value. Ongoing coaching and continuous feedback also rank high.

Even so, a changing world requires new thinking. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, “…leaders (need) to view the uncertainty of our unknowable future not as a problem to be solved, but rather as a reality to be embraced. After all, in the unknowable future, all leaders will need to be entrepreneurs: visionaries that can imagine, adapt, and act nimbly to address whatever changes come their way.”

Relationships matter most

Extensive research by leadership expert Roselinde Torres, who observed and studied great leaders from around the world, distilled their thinking into three defining questions you must ask to prepare your new leaders for an exceptional future.

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?

Are you consciously investing yourself in collaborating with different people, discussing different topics, traveling to new places and reading different material to discover sharp changes in the marketplace, prepare for them, and act on them? “Great leaders shape their future, not just react to it,” Torres says.

  1. How diverse is your personal and professional network?

Your ability to develop relationships with people distinctly different from you in age, socioeconomic status, politics, ethnicity, culture, location, industry and lifestyle, requires mutual trust. A commitment by everyone to reach shared goals is key to not only recognizing trends but also identifying real solutions.

  1. Are you courageous enough to abandon the practices of the past?

Yesterday’s logic and perspective won’t suffice when you try to solve future problems.  Leaders need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. That’s not easy, particularly if an organization has little tolerance for risk or failure.

Predictability models of the future can’t rely on models of the past. To reach your goals, take your old questions and turn them into better ones. Make a decision, then be bold enough to take action.

If you keep focusing on how to develop your employees, you help your organization win in a competitive world and accomplish so much more. Coaching, guiding, perspective and critical thinking build bench strength.

That advantage helps your company to better navigate change and disruption such as a global pandemic. You’ll see alignment around strategic objectives and be well prepared for business continuity when you sell the business or when leadership changes hands.

Ultimately, it isn’t what you have as a leader. It’s what you’re going to do with what you have.

George Satula is an executive leadership coach working primarily as a Vistage chairman, leading three CEO mastermind groups in southeastern Wisconsin. He is also a leadership development consultant, strategic planner and speaker. He can be reached at George@SatulaUSA.com.

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George Satula is an executive leadership coach working primarily as a Vistage chairman, leading three CEO mastermind groups in southeastern Wisconsin. He is also a speaker and leadership development consultant. He can be reached at (262) 786-7400 or George.Satula@VistageChair.com.

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