This article is not only about expanding your business. It also is about expanding your thinking.

Leaders expanded thinking creates expanded possibilities for their businesses. It is critical to understand the latest trends and shifts in the world, and to postulate how they might impact your organization. It's also important to ask what the implications are for the people running these organization.

Global Trends Are Impacting All Companies.

Rapid globalization and technological innovation are impacting you daily. Whether you have a strategy that extends beyond U.S. borders or not, you are a global player; international forces are acting on you and on your business. For example, the increasing competition throughout the world for resources can cause rising prices and perhaps scarcity of natural resources. “Companies are opening their boundaries, and people are enlarging their perspectives, not because they are farsighted, but because they must,” says Rossabeth Moss Kanter.

Global Trends Are Driving New Expectations for Competent Leaders

Successful leaders are those who understand they are citizens of the world. In an increasingly global, skeptical, and uncertain business environment, leaders face unfamiliar issues and questions. For example, issues of trust, risk, security, managing complexity, and the need for new performance metrics necessitate cultivating leadership competencies of self-awareness, shared vision, collaboration, and ability to stand in paradox. These shifts place new demands and expectations on leaders, their organizations, and their brands.

These expectations must be clearly re-defined for each organization and leader. Linear thinking is no longer sufficient. Globalization is requiring a new focus on the being of leadership as well as the doing.

The way you "are" not what "you are doing" is the biggest variable in this change. Your personal flexibility and your open-mindedness to listening and learning will make or break your company and your career. Tolerating, even enjoying ambiguity, uncertainty and change, is essential to success. So, in changing process, your focus must be on your personal development, and the development of all leaders, in balance with the organizational growth opportunities.

Leaders Must Proactively Respond To Remain Successful

First, understand current conditions and trends, then strategize about how you can capitalize on them. Being and doing must be in balance—being open to learning, reading, and seeing the world; and then doing the work to adapt to the competitive, intellectual and cultural shifts before they strike you often "out of nowhere."

Leaders must take the time to remain aware of the latest trends and their impacts. This may require discipline to get off the treadmill of daily operational issues and look further (1) into the future and (2) into the world. Enlarge your perspective; expand your peripheral vision. Go beyond media reports of current events to sources that explore fundamental dynamics and policies contributing to these issues to increase your understanding of trends and issues.

A Process for Effective Organizational Response

  • Raise awareness (your own and others) of global trends and implications. Focus on the future. Increase your peripheral vision to include the entire world. Read widely—Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century is a must. Network with others. Use the Internet. Talk to those who are living it.
  • Understand the implications for your organization and leaders. What do these trends mean to your organization? What impact could they have on it? What competencies and mindsets do leaders need for success? What do you personally have to do to stay current?
  • Involve leaders in developing plans (both individual and organizational) to address the trends and implications. Think of this as an extension of your strategic plan. How will future implications be addressed? How will leaders acquire the knowledge, mindset, experience and competencies for success in the future?
  • Get commitment to implement the development plans, both organizational and individual. Make this a priority, at the same high level as financial, service and operational goals.
  • Measure and monitor. Keep attention focused on this critical development process. Measure and monitor progress just as you do with financial, service and operational goals.

Focus on the future is required—not the future of the U.S., but the future of the world. It is becoming increasingly obvious that events half a world away have immediate and significant impacts in our own backyard. You, as leader, are the catalyst for keeping your company, and yourself, current and successful.

Barbara Osterman, founder and owner of Human Solutions LLC, is a business leadership consultant and cultural catalyst. She can be reached at 585-586-1717 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . This article appeared in Business Strategies Magazine, February 2005.

Barbara Osterman
About The Author Barbara Osterman [Full Bio]
Barbara Osterman, founder and owner of Human Solutions LLC, is a business leadership consultant and cultural catalyst. She supports organizations in increasing business performance and results by successfully weaving business initiatives and culture transformations.

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