What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Discern

Leaders Discern

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This past week, our 36th annual bus tour occurred as our adult leaders traveled around Spokane to see our economic vitality directly. An exceptional byproduct of this tour is the witnessing of vision from so many of our local entrepreneurs. Foresight or vision is the second characteristic our program focuses on, the first being listening. Robert Greenleaf writes “Foresight is a better than average guess about ‘what’ is going to happen ‘when’ in the future. It begins with a state of mind about ‘now’… What we note in the present moment of clock time is merely the intense focus that is connected with what has gone on in the past and what will happen in the future…”

We place foresight early in our leadership program because it is so vital to serving others. How can you lead others if you don’t know where you are going? Foresight and vision are the illuminated roadmap leaders follow. Napoleon saw foresight as a gift he sought out in all his military commanders. He termed vision coup d'œil which he saw as a gift of being able to see at a glance the possibilities offered by the terrain. Today, this inner light is part of every leadership theory. Leaders must possess the “vision thing.” Many of the core servant leadership characteristics do not translate across all leadership theories—traits like healing and empathy are servant leadership-specific. Conversely, foresight and vision are universal.

Marilyn Nelson, Class of 2016, recently spoke to a Class of WSU college juniors on foresight. She provided an insightful analysis. What I appreciated most was her recognition that leaders had the responsibility to foresee. Leaders never get a free pass and the necessity of publishing a roadmap is a central responsibility for all leaders. Associated with foresight is discernment which is the ability to recognize differences between options. Leaders with discernment see over the hill before even approaching the hill. Some leaders have discernment as a natural gift. Others develop it as experience builds in their life. Indeed, it is easy to see over the hill if you have summited the hill many times before. I joked with my adult class showing them the famous Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live video of him playing cowbell with a rock band. This comedic skit spawned years of spinoff products including “Got cowbell?” bumper stickers. I offered my class that discernment is analogous of cowbell. You can always use more discernment, right?

I attended the Sister Peter Claver humanitarian award dinner this week and was struck by the final comments made on the late Sister Peter Claver. In the last years of her life as senior executive for Sacred Heart Hospital in 1991, she remarked to her staff that she saw a day of an education center just north of the river that would help medical learning. Her staff believed her even though in 1991 there were no signs on the horizon for University District. How did she know? Sister Peter Claver’s gift of discernment proved true. Sister Peter Clever was a leader. She had foresight, she had vision. Leaders discern. They must…
Change before you have to. ~ Jack Welch