Greenleaf writes: The failure of a leader to foresee may be viewed as an ethical failure; because a serious ethical compromise today (when the usual judgment on ethical inadequacy is made) is sometimes the result of a failure at an earlier date to foresee today’s events and take the right actions when there was freedom for initiative to act…

 Foresight is the ‘lead’ that the leader has.  Once he loses this lead and events start to force his hand, he is leader in name only.  He is not leading; he is reacting to immediate events…

Two years ago a subsidiary of a large health-care system was sued.  I remember asking the CEO of the subsidiary ‘What will you do if the larger system, in order to protect itself, decides to separate from you?’  He said, ‘That will never happen.’  On the 25th of December (no irony here) the two will be officially separated.  The implications for the subsidiary are enormous.  I will focus on one of these this morning.

Eight months ago I learned that the separation would take place.  I had an opportunity to spend four hours with the Senior Leadership Team.  I invited them to develop a discipline of setting a time each week to stop, step-back, reflect and emerge one or two ‘burning questions’ that would help them discern both intended and unintended consequences of the decisions they were making or were considering.  I also invited them to hold an image of a balance of three concepts: Efficient-Effective-Faithful.

When any organized group of two or more people are faced with dramatic changes or transformations the tendency – fueled by anxiety, if not fear – is to emphasize one of these while ignoring or neglecting the other two.  A choice is made based upon a desire for ‘good and necessary outcomes’ (think: consequences).  For many reasons the Senior Leadership Team was almost always ‘reacting.’  They, it seemed, took little time to be reflective-responsive and thus they were not able to ‘foresee’.

The split of the two organizations meant that the subsidiary would now have to become truly financially independent.  The Senior Leadership Team, partly in order to experience some ‘control’ over all that was whelming them over, focused on ‘Being Efficient.’  With this focus they neglected ‘Being Effective’ and ‘Being Faithful.’  The latter two were sacrificed so the first would be ensured.  The Senior Leadership Team did not ‘intend’ that a consequence of focusing on ‘Being Efficient’ would harm ‘Being Effective’ and challenge what they (the organization) had pledged when it came to ‘Being Faithful.’

Conversations are now occurring during which all three are being attended to: How can we become more Efficient (think: time spent sitting in the waiting room, or speed with which ‘open times’ can be filled)?  ‘How can we become more Effective (think: following up with the patient, ensuring good note taking, taking the time to serve the patient’s highest priority needs)? How can we continue to be Faithful (think: Being Faithful to our stated Purpose and Mission)?

All of the ‘designated’ leaders in this system are now striving to hold in balance all three.  This requires, among other things, continuous vigilance and the discipline of foresight – a commitment to emerge and name both the intended and unintended consequences that accompany Being Efficient, Being Effective and Being Faithful.


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