MENU

What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Predict

Leaders Predict

Happy New Year, leaders! Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. As we warmly welcome 2018, I personally reflect on what my role as servant leader should be in the new year. I suggest other servant leaders should do the same. We are here to serve first and circumstances are always evolving, so our role as servant leaders is to be ahead of the curve or predict how best to serve our team. Now predictions are often horribly wrong. Indeed, I was not good at predicating much of 2017 outcomes in sports, politics and otherwise. Faced with the challenge of making good crystal-ball predictions, what is a good servant leader to do?
When faced with complexity, oftentimes the right answer is to go back to basics, where simple building blocks can be configured to show the right answer. For servant leadership, our basic building blocks are the 10 servant leadership characteristics. One of the core principles unique to the servant leader posture is empathy. Leaders need to understand the perspective of their followers to effectively lead them. Two points on empathy. First, as leaders, empathy is often the hardest to continually maintain. We lose touch and we get bogged down with our own day-to-day challenges and it is easy to forget what is troubling or challenging our followers. Finding mechanisms to engage followers, to hear and listen to their perspective and see their worldview is critical to maintaining empathy. This is easier said than done, but certainly a noble aspiration for servant leaders. Second, and more apropos to our 2018 theme, followers evolve and change over the years – their worries and dreams migrate. For me, I realize I must sense those changes and understand my team does not live in a static world.
The second basic focus area for servant leaders is to heighten their awareness sensors. Technological changes and the pace of society only continue to accelerate. Jobs change, families evolve and our attention spans are impacted by new stimuli daily. To be effective leaders, we need to keep our head above the daily activities and be focused on the changing strategic landscape. Again, easier said than done, but awareness of our surroundings remains central to be ahead of the game. A fine point to be made on awareness is the importance of being aware of one’s self, too. We evolve, too, and while I often claim to be a child of the ’80s, I acknowledge I have changed since the days of Journey and “ET”. Understanding how I will be different in 2018 over 2017 is important in my ability to interact with others and strengthens my empathy too.
Finally, our ability to stay ahead of change, in a sense to predict the way ahead, rests on our commitment to growth of people. That noble calling is what fuels servant leaders. The empathy, the awareness in incredibly complex and dynamic environments we live in is hard work. But, the perseverance we need to make the tough calls, to evolve for the better is sustained by our commitment to others. If that fades, our other servant leadership characteristics will soon degrade as well.
As I charge into 2018, recharging my commitment to others is the first step I take to stay ahead of change. This month, ESPN broadcast commercials looking for support for the Jimmy Valvano Foundation that raises money for cancer research – it occurs in January, and I am always reminded this month of Stuart Scott, and ESPN broadcaster who tragically lost his life to cancer several years ago. He famously said “When you die, it does mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” His sentiments are exactly right and always recenter me on my servant leadership core values, most notably empathy, awareness and commitment to support of people. Predicting the future is always problematic but a leader by definition is most effective leading from the front. Staying ahead of those we lead is best done by understanding them. This strengthens the bond of trust which then powers the team’s synergy. In 2018, leaders can predict how best to serve by getting back to basics. This builds trust which will help us overcome any challenges in 2018. With trust, a team’s potential is unlimited. Leaders predict.
The best way to predict the future is create it. ~ Peter Drucker