What Could Can Be

Great leaders look far enough out to create a vision that is inspiring. They push past any discomfort of not knowing today that it is do-able.


But many executives fear showing that they don’t have the future all figured out. They’d rather stick to the near-term future with a structured road map for all to follow. Rather than envisioning the future and “what can be,” they attempt to manage what could happen. Strategic planning becomes an exercise in judgment about “what is,” comparison to what competitors have done, and analyzing and deciding what can be controlled. It’s not that these areas should not be addressed. It’s that strategic thinking about the future is glossed over and the focus shifts to an exercise in managing details. The possibility of brilliant execution is lost.


This is not to say that the organization should move into the next quarter with no plan at all. Still compile, review, and discuss what the road ahead looks like and how you’ll win (however you define winning). Know and be intentional about shifting out of long-term strategic thinking and into short-term execution planning.


You can’t guarantee a future outcome; predicting setbacks and planning for those is not the same as having a vision. There are too many variables outside of what we can predict. Don’t get stuck in simply thinking about what could be if your selected moves are the only changes that the future will bring.


When you go straight to execution planning, you miss identifying a true north star. You miss the magic of inspiration. There’s no directional pull. What is intended to be strategic thinking becomes decision making about who, what, and how, without identifying why or where. That’s not leading. Stop try- ing to manage the future.


“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within…Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson