The one and only accurate prediction about the future is that it will happen. Exactly how it will happen is the unknown. You can create the most detailed plan for tomorrow, next week and the next few months, and reality may or may not play out precisely as you designed it. But it’s not supposed to. That’s the beauty of the future. You can shape it and influence it, but you can never control it. The key words here are “shape” and “influence.” The best leaders shape and influence the future. They adapt to and maneuver around the twists, turns and surprises they encounter along the way.
Leading into tomorrow’s unknown is about making and acting on the best predictions. The closest any leader will ever get to having a crystal ball is in how well they understand the dynamics of the past and merge it with the three essentials of good judgment, innovative thinking and smart risk taking. There is much truth to the phrase, “Thoughts become things.” Just make sure you’re working with (and acting on) well-formulated thoughts.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to lead your company into the future:
- To flow or not to flow: Going with the flow is like falling into a raging river. You’re going to go wherever that river is going – even if it’s going over the falls. In business, going with the flow means following a trend. It’s easier and more comfortable to be one of the many because of the collective momentum. But going with the flow limits your options. And when you realize that the flow is going somewhere you don’t like, it takes enormous amounts of energy and resources to separate from it – if that’s even possible. I’ve never been one to go with the flow. I’m much more comfortable leading my company to a destination of my choosing. Start your own flow. Be at the forefront and you’ll have more control over the future.
- Push forward when others do not: In business, fear is like cement. It’s heavy and the only way to get out of it is to blow it up. As business leaders, we are surrounded by situations and circumstances that feed on fear. Only you can decide how to react and maintain your perspective. You can hunker down and hope for the best, or you can confront fear with action. The best question to ask yourself is, “What’s the worst that can happen if you push forward?” It’s interesting how quickly a shift in thinking can blow fear away.
- There is no map: There is a best direction, objective, strategy and action plan – but there is no map to the ideal future. You create your future one day at a time, one step at a time, and one win at a time. The future is no different than sailing across an ocean. You know your destination, but currents, storms and winds will present challenges. Knowledge is power. Courage and tenacity is strength. Dealing with the unknown is reality. There’s nothing wrong with a few detours and setbacks because they build character by testing you. Forget the map. Never forget your vision.
- Change means change: The one constant about the future is that “Change is relentless.” You can’t stop it or avoid it. But humans naturally seek out comfort and the establishment of their “normal.” When you’re intent on adapting to and influencing the future, comfort zones are merely rest stops and embracing change becomes your “normal.” You can argue with change. You can avoid change. But as a leader of a company, you will eventually have to change. The consequence is to become irrelevant. An irrelevant leader leads an irrelevant company. Irrelevant is the one word I fear, and so should you.
- Believe in your vision: It gets you out of bed every day. It drives you every day. It is your quest and what gives you meaning in your life. If you don’t believe in your vision, no one else ever will. If you’re not passionate about your vision, no one else will be either. If you give up on your vision, everyone around you will know it and give up on you. Got it?
- Believe in yourself: You may question your abilities – but you can strengthen them. You may doubt yourself – but you can break through those doubts and emerge confident and determined. You may think that you are not worthy of achieving extraordinary success – but that’s just you being humble … and that’s OK.
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