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The Forgotten Key to Great Leadership

When I run a leadership course we always inevitably discuss characteristics of great leaders and we always get words such as motivator, experience, caring, knowledge, power, respect and the list goes on.

Rarely do I hear this one word which can make the role of a leader so much more effective.


Defined, it is the ability to predict what will happen or be needed in the future. In practical terms, it’s the ability of the leader to be aware and to have thought of the potential stumbling blocks or even successes that the organisation or team may face in the near future. By doing this, he or she, will be in a better position to provide the support needed to alleviate the effects of the stumbling block or to maximise the effectiveness of the successes.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention that they would have the answers, because a great leader won’t simply provide solutions. They should have already built confidence in their team for them to feel empowered to do their job, which would include coming up with their own solutions. When the time arises when the team need leadership, the leader will instead have the right questions to ask of their team to ensure they come up with suitable strategies, and because the team feel the leader is confident in them working through those strategies, they will perform at their best.

To have a leader with foresight allows an organisation or team to take advantage of opportunities or overcome barriers in an effective and timely manner.

Think for a moment a time when you needed guidance on a problem or issue. Did the person you turned to for help provide advice straight away? Did they tell you what to do or did they help facilitate you to come up with a solution? Was their advice or guidance of any value? Were you able to solve the problem in a timely fashion because of their help?

Foresight can often come from experience, and it is easy to argue that given the choice of experience or technical know-how, many leaders would prefer experience, because it more than often involves a decent dose of technical know-how. This experience gives the leader a point of reference to come up with a suitable and effective strategy. One of the reasons why someone is a leader is because they have experience, however simply having experience doesn’t necessarily mean that leader is effective. Having the ability to look ahead and be ready for a variety of opportunities or hurdles and then relating what you learnt from previous experience can be the tonic for successful foresight.

It’s always interesting during a course or workshop when a leader comes up with foresight or a similar term when describing characteristics of a great leader. It certainly provides for some great discussion and they tend to establish foresight from their own experience. So, when assessing your own leadership characteristics or those of another leader don’t forget to look at the ability to use foresight. I guarantee it will enhance your leadership skills to be a great leader as opposed to just a leader.

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