Leadership with a 20 year horizon

We have talked about the need for a 20 year horizon to bring about systemic changes that are badly needed.  One of these changes is a building an entrepreneurial society in a region.  What we also need to consider is how, in this world of short attention spans and 144 character messages, that we do that.  Let’s start by considering the type of leadership we need.

When we turn to our existing leaders we run into the limitation of four year terms or the need to hit the next quarterly results.  We also tend to find people more into their own image or well-being than that of the people they are supposed to be serving.  So we clearly need a new leadership model.

When we go about trying to make a change with a 20 year horizon we can’t just come up with a 20 year plan and then execute.  Most of us don’t know what will happen in the next six months to a year let alone 20 years.  So we need someone who can start the process and continue to drive it using vision and experimentation.  This person has to be comfortable with learning as they go and with a lack of structure.  They also have to recognize that they may not be driving the bus when it starts to demonstrate the envisioned impact.

The process has to be designed in a way that people who take over in the future build on the learnings and progress made by those that came before them.  The current leader has to build such a system and the future leaders have to accept and build from there.  Contrast this style to the throw it out and do it my way of many politicians and business leaders.

One person does not have the time, knowledge and energy to make these kinds of changes on their own.  They need to let people in; lots of them.  Some of the people will be long time, fully committed participants while others will be more transient.  As the path winds towards its destination there will be a need for changing skills.

While the end result may be years away there have to be interim measures along the way that help us determine our progress and make course corrections as required.  It is not practical to wait twenty years before we find out if something has a desired impact.  We need to set interim steps with measures and use these to learn and act.  Based on the results of a chosen path we can decide if it had the impact we expected and if it appears to be moving us in the long term direction.

The leaders have to be able to communicate the vision and the short term measures to keep their teams, funders, beneficiaries and other stakeholders interested.  There will be times when this leader will have doubts and will need to dig deep to keep the faith.

There are many traits of great leaders that are discussed and researched by a vast array of people and I won’t repeat them here.  I wanted to highlight the unique elements a leader will need to drive a long term systemic change.  Anyone fitting this description can send their resumes to me or better yet to those organizations that need this type of leader for their future success.

Published by Vince Bulbrook

Vince has spent over twenty five years working with entrepreneurs providing financial and strategic advice. Much of this advice has centered on business model design and product development. Issues such as determining how to invest product development resources, pricing options, features, distribution and client requests all come in to play. For much of the past fifteen years Vince has operated a business providing CFO and strategy services to small businesses. In this period he spent three years in the product development group of a software company that had a $26-million development budget. Along with overseeing the development of a product he also worked with senior management and the other product teams to determine how to manage the product portfolio. He has advised clients in software, entertainment, digital media, publishing, retail and distribution on product pricing, feature selection, distribution strategy. Prior to founding the advisory business Vince worked with Price Waterhouse and Ernst and Young. Vince graduated from the Ivey School of Business with an HBA and is a Chartered Accountant.

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