How can a leader maintain a clear vision amid unpredictable events?

Article for Progress Magazine by: Phil James, CEO The Institute of Leadership & Management

NHIC has a clear mission to improve living standards and reduce fuel poverty. Who wouldn’t sign up to its vision of the future? But as everyone on board becomes buffeted by life’s unreadable flow, how can leaders inject vision with a dose of staying power?

The bombing of Manchester Arena and London Bridge terror attacks highlighted are extreme examples of disorienting events that affected the General Election, as each party struggled to hold a clear line amid the shockwaves. Businesses too are grappling with uncertainty.

After a recent survey of the world’s millionaires, UBS Wealth Management chief economist Daniel Kalt told the International Business Times:
“After a year of uncertain events and high-profile shocks, most believe we live in a very unpredictable age. In response, we see evidence of short-termism creeping in – people reacting to each event as uncertainty grows.”

So, how can a leader maintain a coherent and lasting vision amid the Shakespearean slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? And how should that vision flex in the face of events?

There’s a whole industry involved in predicting and planning for the future, but we can’t control it. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. For leaders, the key is adaptability: It’s future-readiness that counts, not our desire to control change.

But the agility to respond to events requires a vision that is a persuasive expression of a higher purpose, rather than one rich in detailed activities. Ours at the Institute, is ‘To inspire great leadership everywhere’. How we go about that will change. We’re committed to inspiring great leadership, rather than to the mechanics through which that is done.

For NHIC, it’s the same. Governments will come and go,events beyond our control will continue to shape the world around us. But the vision of a better world,free of fuel poverty, with enhanced standards of living for all is a compelling one for all who subscribe to it. Purpose is everything – if you can hold on to that, then the unpredictable becomes opportunity.