Being Strategic - Know Where You’re Heading (Dr Tracey Stead)

You have to be forward-looking; it’s the quality that most differentiates leaders from individual contributors…

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner: The Truth About Leadership

Leadership requires us to know where we are heading, scan the horizon and plan for the future. If we intend to lead others, then we must have an inspiring vision with which to motivate and explain ‘The Why’ of what we (and they) are doing. If everyone is pointing in the same direction, it can save time, confusion and conflict. In this Bridging Session with Tracey Stead, members of the FLF Development Network explored how taking different viewpoints help us become more strategic in approach.

Tracey explores three viewpoints in this blog:

  1. Looking back

  2. Looking down

  3. Looking around

Viewpoint 1 : Looking back from the future

Imagine a positive view of yourself five years from now… a date that’s far enough away that you could have already had a significant impact with your leadership (on yourself, on others, on your research) but not so far away you don't recognise the world around you (the technology is the same – there aren’t flying cars and household robots).

You're at a conference, surrounded by your collaborators and peers, and you bump into an old colleague who asks, “What’s new since we last met back in 2021?

How would you respond?

When you imagine yourself to be in 2026 looking back from there to 2021, how would you answer these questions (take some time to actually journal your responses):

  1. What are the most important aspects of what you’ve done and how you have been (in life and work) over those five years?

  2. What have been your key outcomes? What impact have you had on lives, the environment, society? What has changed in the world because of you and your work?

  3. What are the key outputs of which you are most proud? What is the tangible evidence of what you have achieved? Papers, people, products, events, ideas etc.?

  4. What has been your impact on, or contribution to, your peers, colleagues, department or discipline area? Your friends and family? How would they describe you?

  5. To have achieved all this, what has had to change about your beliefs, behaviours, thoughts or actions?

Answering questions like these helps us become more strategic by shifting our focus forward out of our current activity. Standing in the future, believing we have achieved success, and looking back at those successes helps us get out of our own way and reflect on the things that helped us to get there. When we stand in the present looking forward and thinking of all things we need to do there is a tendency or temptation to