The Importance of Being
Every step we take—no matter how small—
to understand the needs of other people we
strive to serve will increase our bond with
them and move us in the direction of a higher
standard of leadership.
—Keshevan Nair (1994)
Leaders are generally good at stepping forward to solve problems and pursue opportunities. It goes with the territory. However, stepping forward is not enough. Frequently, maybe even as a habit, we also need to step back, to take a longer view of the internal and external environment.
What do we mean by “environment”? Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (2004) defines it as “the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community” (p. 418).
What are the benefits of using effective processes for staying close to the environment? Certainly the tools and techniques we use to get organized and stay in touch can give us from a few to several thousand “ears to the ground.” They can also enhance our foresight.
According to the World Future Society (WFS), “Foresight gives us increased power to shape our futures, even in the most turbulent of times.” In the May-June 2004 issue of The Futurist magazine, WFS points out, “We often think people are successful because they are just lucky, when in fact it was their foresight that made them 'lucky.' It enabled them to take advantage of opportunities and to avoid problems that trap other people” (p. 32).