Putting Leaders to the Test

Robert Tucker
July 19, 2021

Robert Tucker

Driving Growth Through Innovation

As a college student, I was a volunteer on Joe Biden's initial race for U.S. Senate. I recalled him saying something like, "If I'm elected, come see me in Washington." Twenty or so years later I did just that. I put Biden to the test.

It was after a speaking engagement in Washington, D.C. I was about to head to the airport when I spotted the majestic Capitol dome in the distance. I remembered Biden's promise. I had the cabbie to take me over to the Senate Office Building wherein the Delaware senator's receptionist dutifully passed along my request.

Moments later a smiling and familiar figure appeared. The senator shook my hand and barely slowed down long enough to usher me to accompany him over to the Senate floor where he needed to cast a vote. We visited on the tram back and forth, and shortly we were back at his office, whereupon he thanked me for my service and disappeared.

Brief though it was, Biden passed my little test. He kept his word. He walked his talk. It was just that simple, yet I never forgot it.

I recall that incident from long ago because right now because it seems that leaders everywhere are being put to the test. Constituents, employees, and everybody else is asking tough questions about the competence and character of leaders.

As an innovation coach and public speaker, I've had a 35 year ringside seat to observe leadership in action. Working in 54 countries, and in every state and with businesses and trade groups of every size and industry, I've seen examples of great leadership that inspired me no end. I've worked with top teams of businesses in Rome, Charlotte, Bangkok and Abu Dabi. I've observed leadership in mobile phone companies in Bahrain, staffing companies in Kansas City, energy companies in Kenya, and direct selling companies in Peru. And lately, as we all have, I've seen dysfunctional and self-serving leadership at the national level that has disgusted me and made me fearful for future generations.

Never has there been such an urgent need for leadership as right now. Many of the readers of InnovationTrends are CEOs and senior leaders of large organizations. This is my call for you to step up to the plate: your company, your country needs you to lead. And as leaders, you and I face three distinct challenges going forward:

  • Can we build trust where trust is lacking?
  • Can we anticipate change and think ahead of the curve?
  • Can we execute skillfully and turn vision into reality?

Let’s examine these one-by-one:

The first thing leaders must do is build trust.

From the White House to the schoolhouse to the state house and to businesses and nonprofit organizations large and small, followers are asking those in leadership positions: are you the "real deal" and can I trust you? Do you have my back? And can I trust you to keep me and my family and my community safe? Can you steer and navigate this organization to a better place, or will you stand idly by as it is disrupted by forces you don't understand, and don't have a strategy to counteract?

The second thing leaders must do is to anticipate future threats and opportunities.

This week I'm interviewing Rick Sorkin, CEO of Jupiter Intelligence, a climate risk startup with headquarters in Silicon Valley, and whose business booked ten times as many contracts in the first quarter of this year as it did in the prior year. "I think that the pandemic was a bit of a near death experience," Sorkin told the Washington Post. "Once people got past [it], they were like, 'Oh, what else is there like this that we're not worrying about?'" Climate change is at the top of that list.

By using advanced computer modeling, Jupiter forecasts the likelihood of a wildfire disaster, or the threat of a flood engulfing your chemical plant. Jupiter offers a whole new level of insight into what might previously have been considered "unforeseen" risks. Post Covid/Post Jan 6 everyone instinctively realizes we are living in a period of ever-broader "unsustainable" risks. Today's leaders can no longer kick cans down the road. They must lead, for their anticipation skills are on full display. All leaders need to develop and use better tools and methods to help anticipate threats, but also, as Jupiter is doing, to position, wherever and whenever possible to translate them - using creativity and innovation thinking — into opportunities.

The third thing that leaders need to do is to execute successfully and turn vision into reality.

I once interviewed Warren Bennis, the late leadership guru and former president of the University of Cincinnati. Professor Bennis believed in the adage that great leaders are not born but made, insisting that "the process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being," as he put it in an interview with the New York Times. Both, he said, were grounded in self-discovery.

Yet It was Bennis's definition of leadership that I recall now, as being particularly appropriate to the times we are living in. Leadership, as Bennis saw it, is "the capacity to translate vision into reality."

And that vision-to-reality transformation is what we need to study now, to celebrate now, and to strive to get better at. Instead of “just getting by” or muddling through, true leaders develop a vision of where they want to take the organization. They study the trends, they look back to be guided by history, and they inform themselves consciously and consistently as to where today’s trends are headed, and they take risks and make investments, rather than merely “kicking the can down the road” for future leaders to deal with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Putting Leaders to the Test appeared first on Innovation Resource.

Robert Tucker

Want Robert Tucker for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Putting Leaders to the Test
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
July 19, 2021
As a college student, I was a volunteer on Joe Biden's initial race for U.S. Senate. I recalled him saying ...
Why Now Is Time For A Strategic Leadership Retreat
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
June 15, 2021
During the depths of the Global Pandemic, I began to notice a disturbing comment in the ...
The Comeback of the Meetings Industry
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
May 21, 2021
The sun is coming out on the conference industry, just in time. Even worse than the cruise industry, ...
Putting Leaders to the Test
As a college student, I was a volunteer on Joe Biden's initial race for U.S. Senate. I recalled him saying something like, "If I'm elected, come see me in Washington." Twenty or so years later I did just that. I put Biden to the test. It was after a speaking engagement in Washington, D.C. I was about to head to the airport when I spotted the maj...
Read More
Why Now Is Time For A Strategic Leadership Retreat
During the depths of the Global Pandemic, I began to notice a disturbing comment in the interviews I conduct regularly with organizational leaders. It went something like this: “We can't even think about next week, much less next quarter. Strategic planning and forward thinking are out the window.” It was an understandable sentiment. We were ree...
Read More
The Comeback of the Meetings Industry
The sun is coming out on the conference industry, just in time. Even worse than the cruise industry, the meetings industry has been hammered by COVID-19. Hundreds of mostly small businesses have simply disappeared. Many others are on life support. Those of us who've been in the industry awhile know that when the economy catches a cold, the me...
Read More
Four "Future of Work" Trends to Act On Today
Ten years ago, plunging temperatures led to rolling blackouts across Texas, leaving more than three million people without power. In February 2021, a near identical scenario occurred; billions of dollars in damage and 57 people perished as a result. The problem both times: failure to "weatherize" the Texas power grid to protect it from extremely...
Read More
How to Think Like a Futurist
When Covid shut down life as we know it a year ago, many a company went into "batten down the hatches"; mode. They followed their recession playbooks. When demand took off instead, in such industries as exercise equipment, pet products, and virtual meeting software, many were caught flat-footed. Some are still struggling to catch up. Wisconsi...
Read More
The Case For Optimism In 2021
"How can you be upbeat about a 'post-pandemic future' when there's so much pain and uncertainty right now," a colleague asked me the other day, as we were preparing for a webinar. Valid question, I had to admit. Here it is December and things are even worse than they were in March. How can this be happening? A surge in coronavirus cases o...
Read More
Are You a Forward-Thinker? Use These 4 Questions To Find Out
Generals, the old saying goes, are always fighting the last war. In the age of global pandemic and Moore's Law, this is a prescription for disaster. Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, disinformation, and biotechnology are "making traditional battlefields and war-fighting methods increasingly irrelevant," notes a just-released biparti...
Read More
6 Strategies for Shaping Your Post-Pandemic Future
By now, you and your organization have probably moved through the crisis management phase of Covid-19. No doubt it's been all-consuming. You've been focused on keeping your people safe, and your supply lines humming. But now it's time to ask: what's next? This is the perfect time to think about your strategy. A strategy, GE's fabled CEO, J...
Read More
Innovating in an Era of Uncertainty and Complexity
Editor's note: The article below encapsulates a sponsored research project titled, Innovation for a New Era, conducted by Patrick Deren, Matthew Grant, and myself, that was completed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are in charge of creating new products for your company, you already know that a confluence of forces w...
Read More
Use Your Association Leadership Retreat to Become 2020 Future Ready
As America's trade and professional associations enter the new decade, many are facing the same competitive market forces that bedevil their members. Yet often they lack the resources or forward thinking ability to embrace rapidly developing trends, and turn them to advantage. Some associations are thinking ahead of the curve - and taking act...
Read More