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Taking the Lead…

Looking forward, through 2011 and well into this new decade, it seems apparent that leaders and leadership will be in great demand. Not to say there has been insufficient leadership in the past, but only that we must now fully embrace the enormous value and importance of leadership during the 21st century.

There appear to be four fundamental attributes required for sustained leadership. These go far beyond expertise and experience…they go to the heart of why we follow one person over another. The first attribute is the ability to engage others in shared, meaningful dialogue and experiences. These are situational leaders who, with even hand and clear voice, convert chaos into energetic commitment, demonstrating the wisdom of embracing change and opportunity. Second, the most riveting leaders are able to speak to issues with compelling, rational ideas in a manner that defuses or rallies, energizes or justifies. At various times, someone must step to the point and, with great harmony, offer sensible solutions and clear direction.

As we move further into this second decade, strong values and integrity will become more meaningful. This is the third attribute and is essential to address potent challenges that will assault every aspect of global society. There will be many opportunities to abdicate values and to take the easy, less arduous and honorable path. We need leaders who will do what is right…and who do not delay, excuse or pass to future generations legacies that will ensure decline, default and despair.

And finally, a leader’s most critical attribute is the ability to adapt while applying creative thought and energy to adversity. These are the personalities who understand the context of current difficulties, but are able to persevere and emerge stronger. These leaders are fearless but thoughtful, hardy but understanding, and willing to do what is necessary to ensure a better future. Where some would cease to grow or fail to engage, these men and women will face the future with a spirit forged in the cauldrons of economic turmoil, political gridlock, and a transforming world order. They are the new leaders…direct, open, honest, experienced, and committed to positive, collaborative change.

As noted previously, nothing matters more than the future. What kind of leaders will we be? More importantly, if we become the leaders described above, what legacies will we leave to our communities?

With over three decades working in and with federal, state and local government, John Luthy understands public agencies.  Known for his real world, straight talking style, he is a leading futurist specializing in city, county, state, and federal long-range thinking and planning. John is the author of Operations Planning: A Guide for Public Officials and Managers in Troubled Times, and The Strategic Planning Guide, both published by the International City/ County Management Association (ICMA). His new book, Planning the Future – A Guide to Strategic Thinking and Planning for Elected Officials, Public Administrators and Community Leaders, was released in October 2010. An innovative and dynamic presenter, John is frequently asked to speak and consult on how to prepare public organizations and communities for emerging challenges (public futures at http://www.futurescorp.com).

2 Responses

  1. This blog reminds me of a speech given by retired Army General Norman Schwarzkopf. He stated two characteristics of good leaders: 1) when asked to lead, take charge; 2) do the right thing. Do the right thing regardless of circumstances or persons invovled. It takes real courage and internal conviction to make the hard decisions–those that may be unpopular but are right nonetheless.

  2. Leaders must be willing to risk, with “early warning” indicators that a course correction is required. Political types use the phrase “flip-flop” when someone alters their path. If your mind is closed to “flip-flop” or altering your path you will fail.

    However, with risking and altering your path, you might have avoided failure. BUT, failure with “lessons learned” leads to greater success than just minimizing risk and “plodding” along. I presented a speach at a toastmasters, meeting, “The Success of Failure”. The audience commented that it created thought and it was well received.


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