The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead

Anticipate

Business schools, leadership gurus and strategy guides agree — leaders must have a vision. But the sad truth is that most don’t…or at least not one that compels, inspires
and energizes their people. How can something so essential be practiced so little in real life? Vision may sound like a rare quality, unattainable by all except a select few — but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can expand their visionary capacity. You just need to learn how.

In Anticipate, strategy and leadership expert Rob-Jan de Jong explains that to develop
vision you must sharpen two key skills. The first is the ability to see things early — spotting
the first hints of change on the horizon. The second is the power to connect the
dots — turning those clues into a gripping story about the future of your organization
and industry. Packed with stories and practices, Anticipate provides proven techniques for
looking ahead and exploring many plausible futures, including the author’s trademarked
Future Priming process, which helps distinguish signal from noise.

You will discover how to tap into your imagination and open yourself to the unconventional,
become better at seeing things early, frame the big-picture view that provides
direction for the future, and communicate your vision in a way that engages others and
provokes action. When you anticipate change before your competitors, you create enormous strategic advantage. That’s what visionaries do … and now so can you.

Part I: Visionary Content

The Groundwork
Creating a vision requires ideas, ideally intriguing and refreshing ideas that trigger people’s interest, curiosity and excitement. It requires engagement with your imagination and an ability to think outside the clichéd box.

Tapping into Your Imagination
Without imagination, you are stating the obvious or holding on to the status quo; your  vision falls flat. With it, however, your vision becomes intriguing, exciting, refreshing.
Suddenly, it has the potential to energize and mobilize.

Part II: Visionary Practices

Developing Your Visionary Capacity
The potential to come up with — and hold on to and cultivate — a brilliant idea or a vision is within all of us. Visionary leadership isn’t a personality trait, although it is sometimes confused with concepts like charismatic leadership. The big question is how. How do you go about developing this crucial leadership competence?

Seeing Things Early
We’re not aiming to become accurate, or even good, predictors of the future. Instead, we’re working to develop an increased awareness of changing realities, building
antennas for the distant signals that might push the future in a different direction from the one we currently and conventionally foresee. We can then become better at recognizing those signals and their potential impact when they present themselves in some early form. Your ability to see things early is at the heart of what leadership expert Warren Bennis calls adaptive capacity.

Connecting the Dots
In addition to strengthening the ability to see things early, we must equally improve our ability to create a coherent story going forward. This coherent story must consist of what we expect, foresee, envision, and anticipate. It needs to resonate, make sense, and be the guiding light into the future for our followers. I call this second developmental dimension of visionary capacity the ability to connect the dots.

Part III: Your Visionary Self

Your Visionary Self
Author Warren Bennis promotes an integrated perspective on leadership, consisting of four essential competencies: vision, adaptive capacity, voice, and integrity. Here we’ll explore the relationship between your visionary capacity and Bennis’ concepts of voice and integrity — the identity-oriented aspects.

Mindful Behavior
Leading with authenticity also means you must practice what you preach. The best evidence of your true feelings and beliefs comes less from your words than from your
deeds. When your words are believably connected to what you do, when you behave in line with your vision, only then do you display integrity and build trust with your followers.

Part IV: Visionary Communication

Igniting Your Followers
You can have great ideas, make the powerful practices second nature, have clarity on your core purpose and values, and exercise the right behaviors for growth. But if you are unable to communicate your vision in a way that engages and energizes others, the Vision Thing still won’t work for you. There are several specific visionary communication qualities that, when done right, will transform your story from something future-oriented but technical and uninspiring to something that invigorates your followers.

 

The Self-Made Billionaire Effect

WHY BILLIONAIRES SUCCEED

It’s possible to become a millionaire, thanks to a high-paying job in the right industry. To become self-made billionaires, however, takes something more, write John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen in their fascinating new book The Self-Made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value. The authors label those who can succeed within the constraints of organizations or established systems, as performers. Billionaires, in contrast, are producers. “They envision something new,” the authors explain, “bring together the people and the resources to create it and sell it to customers who didn’t know they needed it.”

Researching the factors that differentiate self-made billionaires from everyone else, Sviokla and Cohen found that self-made billionaires were entrepreneurs who shared certain “habits of minds” that took form in what the authors term “dualities.” A duality is a set of two characteristics that complement each other.

Based on an in-depth analysis, augmented by personal interviews, of the history and personalities of the self-made billionaires on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, the authors identified five dualities common to all billionaires.

The Five Dualities

The first is empathetic imagination. Billionaires have the imagination to develop billion-dollar ideas. Those ideas, however, emerge from what the authors call “extreme empathy” for their customers’ needs and wants. For example, few people were buying mutual funds when 24-year-old Joe Mansueto began buying them in the early 1980s. Drowning in paper, after ordering the quarterly prospectuses from each fund he wanted to follow, Mansueto realized that investors would welcome a service offering a report that provided information for all comparable funds. Within two years, Morningstar was born.

While the first duality concerned ideas, the second duality, patient urgency, frames the billionaire’s perspective. Billionaires, according to the authors’ research, are uniquely comfortable with both urgency and patience. They can work fast and super slow simultaneously, depending on the needs of the situation. As the authors explain, “They urgently prepare to seize an opportunity but patiently wait for that opportunity to fully emerge.” Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky, who had failed with an earlier ahead-of-its-time website, painfully realized the value of timing. He also knew that the social media layer of Facebook, Twitter and others had made the time ripe for a deal-of-the-day site such as Groupon, and forged ahead with the idea that would make him a billionaire.

The third duality, inventive execution, underpins how billionaires act. Execution is important, but that doesn’t mean that execution cannot involve creativity and imagination. Micky Arison, former CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, turned the three-ship company of his father into the world’s largest cruise company, owning 10 established cruising brands. Through initiatives such as air-sea packaged charters, Arison reinvented cruising from a leisure activity for the elite to a mainstream vacation.

Billionaires are not huge risk takers, the authors write. But, at the same time, they are less afraid of what they might lose now if there is an opportunity to create enormous value in the future. Having been fired from two real-estate investment jobs, Stephen Ross knew trying to start his own real-estate development firm had little chance of success. But the enormous risk of starting his own company was smaller than the risk of trying and failing again to work within the constraints of another firm. It’s this duality of the relative view of risk — balancing opportunity vs. potential loss — that separates billionaires from mortals, according to the authors.

The final duality that exemplifies the mindset and approach of billionaires concerns leadership, or more particularly, co-leadership. Billionaires seek partnerships, the authors write, with people who have the skills or experience that they are missing, usually combining their producer skills with a “virtuoso performer.”

While the bulk of the book explores the dualities, the authors also detail, in this revealing, in-depth exploration into why billionaires succeed, the steps that companies can take to try to encourage and enable potential producers to succeed within their organizations — instead of leaving to start their own enterprise.

Becoming YOUR Best, Not Someone Else’s

Is your company a mediocre company or an exceptional company? Today, the difference between mediocre and great is the difference between success and failure. So what exactly does it take to be exceptional?

No surprisingly, Steve Shallenberger says that business success starts with ourselves – with becoming our best. But he also says that becoming your best is not about comparing yourself to another person. It’s about becoming your best.

In Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, Shallenberger reveals simple and entertaining ways to harness the power of these 12 principles. You discover how to make communication easier and clearer, live in greater peace and balance, more persuasively lead others with an inspiring vision, and how to embrace change—not fear it.

Shallenberger divides his principles into three thematic sections—Transformational Leadership, Transformational Teams & Relationships, and Transformational Living:

Transformational Leadership
• Be True to Character
• Lead with a Vision
• Manage with a Plan
• Prioritize Your Time

Transformational Teams & Relationships
• Live the Golden Rule in Business and Life
• Build and Maintain Trust
• Be an Effective Communicator
• Innovate Through Imagination

Transformational Living
• Be Accountable
• Apply the Power of Knowledge
• Live in Peace and Balance
• Never Give Up!

If you would like to learn more about these 12 principles, then you’re invited to join our Soundview Live webinar: How the BEST Leaders Ignite Energy and Fuel High Performance. This webinar will be packed with advice, tools, and examples for turning your thoughts into action, motivating yourself and your people, inspiring teams to solve problems creatively, and building the life you’ve always dreamed of.

You can also post questions directly to Steve during the webinar. We hope your will join us on March 10th and begin the journey to becoming your best.

A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office

FROM THE CORNER DELI TO THE CORNER OFFICE

In Winners Dream, SAP CEO Bill McDermott describes his journey from his blue-collar roots in Amityville, New York to becoming CEO of the largest business software company in the world. Unlike many CEO books, Winners Dream is structured not as a book of lessons but as a straightforward chronological autobiography — although nearly every page is infused with business wisdom told through compelling stories.

Know Your Customer

One of the earliest business lessons McDermott offers comes from when McDermott is not even out of high school. When the small deli where he works is emptied out by robbers, the owner decides to sell what is now just a shell. McDermott, with help from his parents and after talking down the price, buys the tiny store, stocks it and starts hunting for customers — not an easy task with the competition of two major convenience store chains within a few blocks. “I was David amidst Goliaths,” McDermott writes. “What, I thought, did I have that the Goliaths did not? What could my little deli give people that 7-Eleven and Finast could not?” To get the answers to these questions, McDermott realized he had to ask another question: “Who is my customer?”

The young high school businessman determined that he had three types of customers: senior citizens from a nearby senior home, local blue collar workers and high school kids hanging out after school. For the seniors, many of whom did not like to leave their homes, McDermott set up a delivery service. For the blue-collar workers, many of whom were paid on Friday and broke on Sunday, he set up a credit system — they could buy on credit during the week but had to pay with the next Friday paycheck. For the high school students, he offered something exceedingly simple: they could all go in the store. At that time, the major chains only let students in the stores in small groups because of the fear of stealing. Thus, McDermott writes, kids with money in their pocket were forced to wait out in the cold.

McDermott’s high school experience offered him a clear lesson: To succeed in business, you must give your customers what they want — and that means you must know what they need. It was a lesson that would guide him when he had moved far from the corner deli.

Drive and Empathy

A successful retailer even in high school, McDermott was clearly born with a fine business acumen. But he also inherited a very strong work ethic from his parents and was driven by ambition and confidence. When he applied to Xerox and was told that HR would be contacting him with a response, McDermott asked the last interviewer to hire him on the spot instead — which he did.

For McDermott, passion, planning and confidence are key success factors for a business career. But perhaps even more important is empathy — understanding the needs of the people you sell to and you work with. It was empathy that made his small deli a success during high school, and when in 2010, as SAP CEO, he was working on a new strategy to strengthen the future of the largest business software company in the world, the questions he asked are surprisingly similar: Who exactly are our customers, and what do they want? For SAP, customers were any possible end users of technology. And what they wanted was compatibility with multiple mobile devices and access to cloud computing — and those are the areas in which SAP would move forward.

Winners Dream is subtitled A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office. It is a journey that illustrates, with every step, inspirational business guidance and solid leadership lessons for anyone striving for a similar journey in their lives.

The 31 Practices Revealed

As I began the research for this blog on The 31 Practices, I thought it would be helpful to list at least some of the 31 practices for you to consider. That’s when I realized that there was no such list. Because the practices are based on the values you consider to be most important, the list will be different for every company and person.

Once you choose the values you want to focus on, then you develop the 31 practices (one for each day of the month) based on those values. As authors Alan Williams and Alison Whybrow state it, “The 31Practices® method weaves together principles and practices from psychology, sociology, philosophy, neuroscience, leadership and business to significantly enhance customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty.”

But even though there is no definitive list, here are some of the possible values that can be chosen from to develop your 31 practices:

Accountability                Competitiveness                Decisiveness
Accuracy                       Consistency                       Democraticness
Achievement                 Contentment                      Dependability
Adventurousness          Continuous Improvement  Determination
Altruism                         Cooperation                       Devoutness
Ambition                        Correctness                       Diligence
Assertiveness               Courtesy                             Discipline
Balance                         Creativity                             Discretion
Being the best               Curiosity                              Diversity
Compassion                  Curiosity                              Dynamism

Well, you get the idea. There are a lot of values that can become the basis for running a business, or living a life. But to understand this concept better, we’ve invited Williams and Whybrow to our upcoming Soundview Live webinar.

In this webinar, Release the Power of Your Organization’s Values, Williams and Whybrow show how an organization’s values and brand can be translated into the daily practices and behavior of their employees, drawing a golden thread from the boardroom to the front line customer experience.

Please consider joining us on February 12th to learn more about how you can build your company based on the set of values you consider most important. And bring your questions to ask of the authors throughout the webinar.