Servant Leader Principle #7 – Foresight

Foresight enables servant leaders to understand lessons from the past and the present. These lessons help them understand the consequences of decisions in the future.

BSA NYLT Syllabus, module Servant Leadership
Barn, by Chris Shoff

Like a good farmer, a servant leader has a good sense of impact. Actions or decisions that are seemingly inconsequential may have significant value over time, and identification of these inflection points are crucial for any leadership. As this is not always apparent at the immediate time, it takes awareness combined with wisdom to see past and future.

This becomes almost esoteric in application, and indeed, sometimes it’s a mystery to know, even personally, whether a decision is right:

Closely related to conceptualization, the ability to foresee the likely outcome of a situation is hard to define, but easier to identify. One knows foresight when one experiences it. Foresight is a characteristic that enables the servant leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision for the future. It is also deeply rooted within the intuitive mind.

Larry Spears Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders

Getting the Basics Right

Without a moral standard, intuition can be led astray. It forms the bedrock of the decision, the guardrails around the correct road, the limits necessary.

As I’ve previously posted, my moral grounding starts with my relationship with Jesus, I look to Him for examples during His life on earth:

A religion scholar tried to trip Jesus up by prioritizing the commandments God gave to the Jewish nation. In response, He gives the bedrock of these commandments:

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Matthew 22:37-40, The Message

The second parallel commandment, loving others as yourself, is inherent in servant leadership. As a good first pass of a decision, caring for others is a great start.

Embracing Intuion

Often after this first pass of caring for others as a high goal, there are many paths to take, and not all of them are clear. Here is my list of habits I use to build on my foundation:

  • Take a deep breath – Many times a decision needs a bit of consideration, and using your breathing to clear the decks and slow the emotional roll.
  • Allow yourself some time – While many decisions need immediate attention, some may need more consideration; don’t be afraid to ask for more time.
  • Test the decision – Throwing the alternatives at your target to see if it will stand up to the test – even ones that initially seem better. Take a look at the goals and outcomes of each branch
  • Being able to describe the decision in pictures or analogies – I find that if I can describe the decision in visual or other ways, it clarifies the decision and allows me to describe it to others.
  • Feeling settled in the decision – it’s hard to describe, but when I find a decision is right, there’s a deep-seated satisfaction with the future outcome that is peaceful, even if not easy.

Putting it together

Foresight is a somewhat mysterious concept. Having a bedrock set of morals, along with using wisdom and intuition, you are able to synthesize good decisions that will stand the tests that will come as you lead.

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