8 Principles of Leadership to Exit the Badlands (Part 1)

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux | | Future of Work

MOHD_8 Principles 1

As we look back at our journey through the Badlands over the last 10 years, we see that that old economy is gone. The social institutions, such as health care and education which were created mid-century, are failing – given they are mismatched to the issues and needs of today and tomorrow. We have been at the end of the Badlands many times in history. Now we face the ultimate leadership challenge to create the new.

The historic journey to exit the Badlands will be unique for each leader and organization. The following Eight Principles of Transformation, however, serve as general guidelines that can provide a better chance to survive and thrive over the next decade. In times of high uncertainty, huge shifts can occur rapidly, posing a serious threat to the core strategies of an organization. Obsolescence is an ever-present danger as you exit the Badlands.

These 8 Principles are not linked to any single challenge. They apply widely, thus making for a rich and complex web of solutions that are strategically applicable to every phase of the journey.

MOHD_Figure 3.1 Principles of Leadership

    1. Scan, Scout, Steer

    Leaders must remain flexible and adaptive, scouting for opportunities while nimbly steering around sudden pitfalls. They must scan, scout, and steer – for not just their organizations – but for themselves in their quest for personal growth and leadership readiness.

    The primary purpose of scanning and scouting is to gain accurate near-term and mid-term foresight that keeps strategies properly attuned and ensures that you—and not your competitors—find the next big opportunity. Scouts provide a continuous flow of information, leading to visibility of weak signals, micro trends, industry shifts and new competitors. This intel will be paramount to creating and fine-tuning strategies along the way.

    Good scouting explores not just the industry horizon but virgin territories and zones of likely opportunities, including “Blue Ocean.” Many companies lack leaders who are good scouts. Often, this responsibility is relegated to a strategy group that may be isolated from the rest of the company, a near fatal move. Traditional scouts are typically unable or unwilling to wander outside their old, familiar territories. Smart companies will strategically improve all leaders’ readiness to identify both opportunities and risks. This in turn will enable them to act quickly to steer to emerging opportunities by providing the necessary resources and authority to experiment.

    2. Act With Integrity

    Leading in uncertain conditions demands great belief in yourself, as well as strength of character. Integrity lies at the heart of every leader’s journey out of the Badlands, just as it has in every historic epic.

    Much more than just honesty, integrity includes coherence, connectedness, wholeness, and vitality. It is the capacity to remain integrated under the pull of entropy, uncertainty, and disorder—omnipresent conditions as you exit the Badlands and try to establish a toehold in the foothills of the future. The toxic leaders that rose up in the Badlands are not all gone and demand a courageous response to move beyond them. Living your integrity is important, and you will feel the difference when you do. Integrity it is not an abstract quality. It is the core of Self-Leadership.

    Acting with integrity demands that leaders continuously create meaning and be vigilant about ethics. The changes currently underway in the economy and social institutions of our global society are deeply disturbing. They challenge our assumptions about who we are, what we do, and the value we offer. While profoundly disorienting, we can navigate them successfully by maintaining our integrity.

    3. Seek Collisions

    As you exit the Badlands, most companies will still lack both the right people and the right diversity of people needed to make a rigorous journey marked by continuous innovation. The practice of not just avoiding but seeking collisions will help them create the optimal diversity they need. Most leaders don’t know what they don’t know and they struggle to apply what they do know in conditions of great uncertainty. Collisions will help them figure it out.

    To collide is to crash or smash into something; to have an accident in which something gets bent or changed or you have an “Aha!” moment. Leaders need to choose pathways that will provide surprising encounters with outsiders who can often see possibilities that are invisible to them and other insiders. They will want to bring some of these diverse voices inside the company, whether through an alliance, a short-term contract with specific deliverables, or a direct hire. Constructive collisions will be a vital part of building a richer, more robust intelligence web. Much innovation can be fed by simply talking with new people, often people you don’t know and don’t like, and listening deeply.

    An extremely important field in which to seek collisions is one’s own customer base. Deeply understanding the customer will help leaders stay close to the often dormant and unconventional convergences between their business potential and their customers’ real life pains.

    Drinking at dangerous waterholes is another form of seeking collisions that targets competitors. Getting close to and, perhaps even collaborating with, actual or potential predators can be a useful collision. They have become successful in different ways than you have, and there are lessons to learn that can help you thrive.

    4. Fast Learning

    MOHD_Dangerous Waterholes

    You can’t lead if you can’t learn—and the power in exiting the Badlands and creating new institutions, business models, products, and services comes from learning over and over and over again. Many leaders find it difficult to learn in unstructured, uncertain environments. Under these conditions, leaders often describe feeling fearful and closed down. This Leadership Insecurity is a huge obstacle to exiting the Badlands successfully. It takes courage to learn in a fast-paced, chaotic environment where the stakes are high. Leaders must find ways to move beyond fear and find a calm place that allows them to embody both shared leadership and Self-Leadership.

    Trial and error constitutes a critical pathway for accelerated learning. Success means engaging in many experiments, knowing full well there will be many failures. The trick is to fail in interesting ways so that you learn as much as you possibly can about yourself and your strategy. Each experiment provides rich opportunities to learn things about yourself – both positive and negative.

    Each leader must learn new skills for the future. The ability to create critical, unique insights and apply them with novel solutions in unexpected situations will be demanded frequently. Many leaders confuse access to knowledge and information with learning. It is only through acting on knowledge, though, that leaders become intelligent. And they must do it quickly. There is no time as you exit the Badlands to sit around and devise the perfect strategy.

Parting Thoughts…

Leadership is different as you exit the Badlands. It is an environment of temporariness and Velcro relationships where you collaborate with other leaders. This collaboration is rooted in intense focus, attaching very strongly and quickly detaching when you are done without causing damage. Collaboration is critical. We got into the Badlands alone but we can’t get out alone.

With a culture that encourages risk taking, and the use of the first four of eight principles of leadership in play, we have the ingredients for radical innovation, our next principle. We will discuss this and the remaining Principles of Leadership in Part 2.

Related posts:

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Global Foresight, is one of the world’s leading futurists, business forecasters and long term strategy advisors. She has over 25 years of global experience providing Blue Chip clients, Fortune 500 executives, senior policy makers and not for profits with reliable customized forecasts that deliver targets no one else can see. Mary is a leading expert in future trends, global business, the future of work, and the future of China and emerging markets.
Copyright © 2014 - Global Foresight