Leadership = “Seeing The Future” – The Ability To Predict Is A (Maybe The!) Key Attribute For Good Leaders

Rick Stengel, Time Magazine

Rick Stengel may have his shoulder in a sling, but when it comes to the newsmagazine wars, he’s the last man standing.  The reason, says Time’s managing editor, is that “we saw what was coming. We wanted to fix the roof when the sun was shining.”
Howard Kurtz, Thinner Time magazine still manages to stand out

Throughout my life, I have nearly always taken at least one of the “big three” newsmagazines (sometimes, more than one at a time):  Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report.  (The single most memorable paragraph I ever read in a newsmagazine was an item in “Washington Whispers” in US News many years ago that completely calmed a personal fear).

I have to admit, I take none of them now.  I simply get my news from so many sources, including some from these three, but on-line.

But this quote grabbed my attention: “We wanted to fix the roof when the sun was shining.” So, kudos to Time for making smart decisions just ahead of the crisis.  Newsweek and US News & World Report missed it.

But the business lesson in this:  what are you doing to prepare for the storm while the sun is still shining? Because, for every business and industry, the storm is either here, or coming very, very soon.

My son recently asked me “How will you do the First Friday Book Synopsis when books are all electronic?”  He loves to read, is well-read – but he is three decades younger than I, and lives in the computer/electronic world.  He feels a slight tinge of sadness at the prospect of the electronic book taking over the bound printed-on-paper book, but he is not bothered at this as much as I am.  (By the way, one of our regular participants asked me the same question just a couple of weeks ago).  My simple answer is that a good book synopsis is valuable whether a book is printed on paper or in the cloud.  But I sense the storm warnings.

I recently presented my synopsis of Mastering The Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm by Verne Harnish.  Here is a line from the book:

The two most important attributes of effective leaders are their abilities to predict and to delegate.

I’ve been pondering that attribute, “to predict.” And I can think of a plethora of examples.  Every time a company goes under, or drastically cuts back, because the world has changed and the company had not “seen it coming,” it signals a failure of “predicting” ability on the part of the company leader(s).  I’m sure the ability to “delegate” is also important, but I am growing in my belief that Verne is right to put “to predict” at the top of attributes needed in a leader.  Notice especially the first part of the Stengel quote:  “We saw what was coming.”

This pace of change is only going to accelerate, and any business that thinks that it can wait until the storm arrives to make the changes is going to miss it.  Just ask Newseek, US News, and so many others.

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