What do followers want? A leader with a compelling vision of the future – which is not usually that leader’s personal view. New research shows that followers respond to a leader who can articulate a vision. I hope you enjoy this post from Harvard Business Review.
To Lead, Create a Shared Vision
Being forward-looking—envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future—is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from nonleaders. We know this because we asked followers.
In an ongoing project surveying tens of thousands of working people around the world, we asked, “What do you look for and admire in a leader (defined as someone whose direction you would willingly follow)?” Then we asked, “What do you look for and admire in a colleague (defined as someone you’d like to have on your team)?” The number one requirement of a leader—honesty—was also the top-ranking attribute of a good colleague. But the second-highest requirement of a leader, that he or she be forward-looking, applied only to the leader role. Just 27% of respondents selected it as something they want in a colleague, whereas 72% wanted it in a leader. (Among respondents holding more-senior roles in organizations, the percentage was even greater, at 88%.) No other quality showed such a dramatic difference between leader and colleague.
This points to a huge challenge for the rising executive: The trait that most separates the leaders from individual contributors is something that they haven’t had to demonstrate in prior, nonleadership roles. Perhaps that’s why so few leaders seem to have made a habit of looking ahead; researchers who study executives’ work activities estimate that only 3% of the typical business leader’s time is spent envisioning and enlisting. The challenge, as we know, only escalates with managerial level: Leaders on the front line must anticipate merely what comes after current projects wrap up. People at the next level of leadership should be looking several years into the future. And those in the C-suite must focus on a horizon some 10 years distant.
So how do new leaders develop this forward-looking capacity?
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