The Leader of the Future

Jim Bruce's picture By: Jim Bruce

For today’s reading, we turn to a December 2007 FastCompany article by William Taylor, The Leader of the Future.  In this piece Taylor, one of the founders of FastCompany, reports on a discussion with Ron Heifetz, director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  You will likely remember that Heifetz is author of one of the views of leadership we studied early in the leadership program.

Although at eight pages this article is somewhat longer than the usual Tuesday Reading, it says some very important things about leadership that I thought should be shared with you.  Some of the key things that caught my eye are:

Leaders question reality:

1.  What values do we stand for?  And, what are the gaps between our values and our actual behavior?

2.  What skills and talents do we have?  And, what are the gaps between our resources and what we need?

3.  What are the opportunities we see in the future?  And, what are the gaps between these opportunities and our abilities to act on them?

Leadership means influencing the organization to face its problems and live into its opportunities.  Mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges is what defines the new job of a leader.

People learn by encountering differences (another word for conflict).  Hand in hand with the courage to face reality comes the courage to surface and orchestrate differences.

The work of the leader is to lead conversations about what is essential and what is not.

The leader must help people face the internal contradiction between the values they espouse and the way they live (behave).

Leaders must know how to listen, want to listen, and want to know what the real difference is in what is being said.

Leaders face danger when they challenge people about their priorities, their values, and their habits.  When you do this you have to pace the rate at which you challenge so that you do not frustrate people to the point of inaction on everything.

When a person is attempting to lead and is either without authority or seen to be without authority, people’s attention spans are very short when you try to communicate with them.  Use what attention you can get wisely and planfully. 

Leaders should not take things personally.  While it may sound personal, its the issues you represent that people are after.

Look for something in this leadership template that would represent a new, useful practice for you to have.  Begin to use it, and adopt it for your own.  


.  .  .  .  .     jim

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