Farsightedness is one of the essential qualities of a leader. Farsighted thinking is the ability to envision and articulate a future that’s impactful and feasible. As a leader, you need to be able to articulate to others where you’re headed, what’s possible when you get there, and what you can accomplish by working together.
A farsighted vision—and ability to communicate it—has set apart some of the most effective and successful leaders of the last century. Martin Luther King was farsighted when he wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech. Walt Disney was farsighted when he envisioned Disneyland and later Disney World. Steve Jobs was farsighted when he pioneered the microcomputer. Bill Gates was farsighted when he worked toward putting a “computer on every desk and in every home.” John F. Kennedy was farsighted when he called NASA to put a man on the moon within a decade—and to do it before the Soviet Union did. Ernest Shackleton was farsighted when he dreamed up his Antarctic expedition . . . and even more so when he continued forward toward rescue and didn’t quit. Henry Ford was farsighted when he visualized a “motor car for the great multitude” that would provide “hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.” Each of these leaders knew where they were headed, even though they may not have known how they were going to get there at the time. Having clarity about the future is powerful.
When we start sharing about the Futures Framework, it’s usually the same block we come up against with people every time. “This sounds great but isn’t it just a nice to have? I’m pretty busy dealing with today and the real issues we’re facing.” (Don’t you know that we have a budget shortfall/ our CEO just left/ we’re under a continuing resolution/ there’s a pandemic?)
The future isn’t optional. It’s going to happen whether you are ready for it or not. We recently picked up an old favorite book: God Dreams by our friend Will Mancini. It reminded us of all the reasons why vision and strategy are so important; why, to see the fullness of the kingdom of God, we can’t be shortsighted. Will writes up a great list of Twelve Compelling Reasons on page 36 that summarize why it’s impossible not to think about the future.
There are clear motivational reasons for us to be farsighted:
- Think long to master-plan your disciple-making impact.
- Think long to connect people to God’s big story of redemptive history.
- Think long to focus on a broader resource base.
- Think long so that God can do more than you think.
We are wired to think about the future – it helps drive us. Our thoughts and resources and understanding are necessarily limited. Don’t we want to tap into more than today? We have to be farsighted leaders to think through phases of God’s story and our plan. Neither are complete right now – so we have this incentive to think far and long so that we can find our place in that bigger picture. It’s these elements that makes us say yes to the adventure in front of us.
Next are the practical reasons:
- Think long because how big you think guides how much you accomplish.
- Think long to build a ministry that will endure.
- Think long because it costs you nothing.
Super practically speaking: why would you not become farsighted? It costs you nothing to do so; indeed, it will help you build a ministry and have an impact that will go far beyond just today. Your thinking drives your doing. If you don’t start thinking and planning like a farsighted leader you won’t have the impact of a farsighted leader. It’s only going to make you better.
Finally, let’s think about the Biblical reasons that we are called to think about the future:
- Think long to love people beyond your lifetime
- Think long because that’s how God reveals himself
- Think long because most likely you will lead for a long time.
- Think long because God thinks generationally.
- Think long because you will live forever.
We are called to love people – and that’s not limited to the ones we currently know. We want to know God – and He has more to show me. Learning that is a process. We want to lead well – and hopefully that means for a long time. (If we don’t want it to last why am I doing it? We want to think like God thinks – and that means generationally. It means leaving things for our children, and our children’s children. Most of all, the promise of the Gospel is that I will live forever. And that means forever matters.
Therefore, the essence of being a farsighted leader is having enough clarity about the future for you to know your direction in the present. This doesn’t mean you’ll have all of the answers, or even most of the answers—or that you need to pretend you do. It merely means that you have clarity about which direction God’s leading you.
The future is full of so much possibility – and possibility is liberating! It invites us to act because we see creative ways to have impact, to build something that matters, to connect with God’s people