Foresight is the power of foreseeing what will be needed in the future. It’s certainly among the cardinal virtues of servant leadership.
Indeed, Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term “servant leadership” in his foundational 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader, said that foresight is the key to being – and remaining – a leader:
Foresight is the “lead” that the leader has. Once leaders lose this lead and events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only. They are not leading, but are reacting to immediate events, and they probably will not long be leaders.
Greenleaf went on to say that servant-leaders have an ethical duty to be foresightful.
How do servant-leaders do that?
Here are 7 ways to cultivate foresight:
- Diversify intentionally. Interact with people different from you – in age, gender, race, religion, national origin and worldview. Because of their diverse perspectives, these folks might see things coming that you would have missed. Looking through multiple lenses should help you see the future more fully.
- Listen deeply. Improve your listening because every conversation might contain some hint about the future. Have you heard three people report three similar occurrences lately? Perhaps that occurrence is the harbinger of a new trend soon to be apparent.
- Read widely. Yes, it’s good to have deep expertise. But don’t be the buggy whip expert surprised by the success of the Model T Ford. Look for trends in places unfamiliar to you. If you are in the nonprofit sector, read The Wall Street Journal; if you work on Wall Street, read The Nonprofit Times.
- Think systemically. Within a system, an action in the present usually causes a reaction in the future. So, good servant-leaders hone their skills in “systems thinking” so they can better foresee the future, especially the likely consequences of their decisions, allowing them to create the future rather than react to it.
- Predict habitually. Build your predictive muscles, so to speak, by making regular and well-considered predictions, then testing them against reality. If you can, make it a group exercise by getting your team to join you for predictions of emerging trends or important events in your business.
- Network constantly. The wider a radio telescope’s antenna is spread, the farther into space it can hear. The wider a servant-leader’s network is spread, the farther into the future it can hear. Servant-leaders use their networks to pick up and transmit important information about what is ahead.
- Live technologically. Trace human history since the industrial revolution and see how technology forms the future. Like it or not, to improve our foresight we must stay abreast of changes in the technology. These days, opportunity is more likely to snap (from Snapchat, that is) than knock.
What do you think? Are there other ways you can suggest to cultivate foresight? Please let us know. Thanks!