In case you missed them, here are my reflections on leadership, sparked by the election campaign and circulated on election night. They have relevance both to the United States and our many readers around the world.
ON LEADERSHIP IN 2012
Great leaders have many qualities, but above all two. First, a commitment to the long term. Second, a capacity to shape questions.
These two are related. They mark great leaders as those whose responsibilities are not confined to the immediate concerns of their constituencies and the present day. They rise above time and place, and intuitively bring into alignment present and future. It is how great companies have been established that have shown resilience over time. It is how great nations have been shaped and enabled. While the leader is day by day held accountable by followers (and, indeed, investors) afflicted with the short-sight of the immediate, the leader's eyes are constantly scanning the horizon for threats and opportunities that may have no immediate significance to the myopic crowds of today, but that will determine their tomorrows.
It's plain that in a democracy, especially one as responsive as that of the United States, the disjunction between the long view and the short may be great. Where it has been well-bridged, it is the quality of leadership we need to thank.
And while this has always been true, what is new in the 21st Century is the pace of change. We are familiar with the compounding mathematics of Moore's Law. And just as Moore's Law does not drive everything equally, so new exponential forces, chief among them globalization in its several forms, are also drivers. Yet the logic of an exponential pace for change still tends to elude us. We assume a steady pace, and judge tomorrow's likely challenges in light of yesterday's experienced ones. We assume that past changes have brought about a "new normal" that will long prevail. Such assumptions drive much of our thinking. The faster change is taking place, the more important it is to look ahead - where change will be faster and more disruptive - for the ground of today's decisions. Leaders look into the future, and bring back their vision to frame the decision-making for today.
It was Margaret Thatcher who stated succinctly that European nations are founded on history, while America is founded on philosophy. That single fact has been America's greatest strength. It is today America's greatest opportunity. This nation, of all nations, should not be locked into its past.
Seven keys to future-focused leadership.
1. It is all about the questions. Washington, as I have written more than once, is a city of smart answers where hardly a soul is asking what the questions are.
2. It is all about the future. All 600 think tanks and 635 Hill offices and who-knows-how-many lobbyists have their focus turned toward the next 2, with one eye on the past. What if next time around we had presidential debates premised on future scenarios - for 10 or 20 years out?
3. It is all about technology. While technology is not everything, everything is shaped by technology and shall be more every day. Every choice, personal, business or policy, will be framed by pervasive and constantly evolving technology issues.
4. It is all about exponential change. Moore's Law, which essentially declares that change gets ever speedier as computer chips get smaller and cheaper, is not driving everything equally (think farming or interior decoration), but is driving everything.
5. It is all about asymmetry. Osama bin Laden and Julian Assange, in different ways, have grasped the point that in a world of immediate diffusion of news and low-cost access to technology, the old controls of the strong and powerful no longer rule.
6. It is all about globalization. This term has been used to mean many things, and is enthused about and despised. Point is: We shall not be going back on it. Global information, global trade, the breakup of blocs that controlled their citizens and dictated to others, the divisions of language and culture -we are moving on fast from the predictable patterns of the Cold War generation into a dynamic situation where the BRICS and ad hoc G groupings operate in a fast-changing geo-political situation.
7. It is all about knowledge. That does not mean it is all about traditional expertise. We need deep experts in every discipline, but the innovators and shapers are those who grasp more than one and also grasp how the pieces fit together. A new inter-disciplinarity rules. And, as we learned to our great cost in 2008, groupthink may be our the greatest enemy. Knowledge emerges at the interface of disciplines, opinions, and rival interpretations.
To rephrase: It's about The Long View - Asking Tomorrow's Questions. The faster the process of change, the more significant the constant probing of the future. That has always been a mark of great leadership. It has become a more significant mark of it every year. Leaders frame the questions, they anticipate the future. We have never needed such leadership more.