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Irma Becerra is president of Marymount University, a comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.
In today’s ever-changing and unpredictable world, it can be easy to get caught up in short-term concerns and lose sight of the big picture. Leaders who maintain a long-term perspective can stay focused on their core mission, values and vision to ensure that their organizations remain aligned with future goals and objectives. A long-term perspective is essential for success, especially when leading an organization through uncertain and rapidly changing times.
Take, for instance, the global pandemic. Maintaining a long-term perspective was crucial for keeping calm and ensuring business progress. Leaders needed to continue pursuing their mission and remain committed to the organization’s strategic goals despite the tremendous upheaval in everyday life.
Expectations and demands on leaders changed dramatically in the spring of 2020. Before the global pandemic, leadership often focused primarily on achieving financial and operational goals while ensuring employees’ well-being. However, the global pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, and many leaders took on additional responsibilities. For example, they navigated the complexities of managing remote teams, ensured business continuity and ensured the health and safety of employees and customers.
Here are a few things to keep front of mind to maintain a long-term perspective when pursuing leadership goals.
Always plan for contingencies.
As you work tirelessly to develop strategies to create a clear and compelling vision for your organization’s future, understand that unexpected challenges and disruptions will always occur. For example, one of the first things I did when I became president of Marymount was to launch a new strategic plan. In 2020, we extended the plan by two years to account for the global pandemic, which didn’t stop my institution but forced us to slow down the implementation.
Juggling day-to-day responsibilities while keeping a steady eye on future challenges and opportunities can be challenging. Organizations that think ahead and promote a culture of preparedness and collaboration can be well-prepared to respond during a crisis.
Cultivate an environment that is supportive of cognitive diversity.
Organizations that leverage diversity of thinking can benefit from many unique perspectives. Building strong teams that foster cognitive diversity is paramount to organizational success. A team that shares and respects differing views works together effectively and can align toward a common goal is the foundation of any successful organization.
Leaders should aim to provide employees with opportunities to work together in a supportive and inclusive environment. Give your teams the proper support and tools, and encourage everyone to keep their sights set on future goals. I’ve noticed sustainable success happens gradually over time. It requires hard work, persistence and a commitment to excellence.
As leaders, encourage and support the integrative capacity of teams by cultivating an organizational environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their viewpoints, ideas and opinions. Doing so brings new knowledge to the table, leading to greater innovation and a more open culture.
Encourage collaborative decision making.
Collaborative decision making requires considering multiple scenarios and anticipating potential challenges. Synergy should be a priority for all leaders today, so do not underestimate the importance of teamwork. Provide a framework for your teams to come together when making informed decisions; doing so can propel the organization forward.
When decision making is well-rounded and considers various perspectives, there is typically a reduced risk of blind spots or unintended consequences. When individuals feel listened to and that their team considers their input, I’ve found they are more likely to support and implement the decision effectively.
In addition, collaborative decision making can also improve knowledge sharing and transfer within the organization. By involving different stakeholders in the decision-making process, they can learn from one another, leading to a better understanding of the organization’s goals, challenges and opportunities. This can ultimately lead to a more knowledgeable and effective workforce, which can contribute significantly to the organization’s long-term success.
That said, I’ve found aiming for consensus or perfection when collaborating is generally not possible. Put aside self-interests and support final decisions when they are made, so the organization can continue to prosper. Employees who dissent and express their dissatisfaction externally can cause great harm to the organization’s brand and reputation.
Build lasting inter-organizational partnerships.
In today’s business environment, inter-organizational partnerships are becoming increasingly crucial for companies looking to remain competitive. Leaders must be able to communicate effectively and work together with partners to achieve common goals.
Active listening is critical in this process because it helps to ensure that all parties are in-sync and on the same page. When you hear and understand your partner’s needs, goals and perspectives, you can lay the foundation for effective collaboration and problem-solving — which are vastly important when building mutually beneficial inter-organizational partnerships.
These partnerships can help you meet your leadership goals and pave the path for future ones. These partnerships can also foster innovation, provide opportunities for knowledge transfer and enhance brand reputation.
Set the proper groundwork for long-term success.
A long-term perspective can help leaders make decisions while carefully considering their far-reaching impact on the organization and its stakeholders. Leaders who foster responsible and sustainable decision making for a stronger, more resilient organization are better able to withstand disruptions. Keeping a long-term perspective can benefit an organization in the current moment by providing a clear direction and focus for decision making. Leaders can then prioritize investments for the benefit of the whole organization, as well as provide resources that have the potential to deliver the greatest long-lasting results and contribute to overall growth.
Maintaining a long-term perspective is hard work. Leaders often face pressure from stakeholders to deliver quick results. One way to negate such pressure is to communicate clearly and involve key stakeholders in planning and decision making.
We all know that the future is unpredictable and that the long-term consequences of actions taken today are uncertain. Still, keep a steadfast eye on the horizon, and you can create a positive legacy for your organization and lay the foundation for long-term success.