I used a hand plow like the one pictured above as a kid.
There’s a secret to plowing a straight row: Fix your attention at the far edge of the field, not the plow-blade biting the dirt.
The same is true in your leadership work. Fix your attention on the horizon, and beyond, or the day-to-day work won’t give you the results you want. Often you need one eye on the horizon, and one eye on the near details.
Let’s convert the horizon into time. Years ago I heard that a mid-level manager should be thinking out 1.5 years, a senior manager 3-5 years, and a C-suite executive 5-10 years. Even in this accelerating innovation era, it’s still important to have a long view.
5-10 years is for short-sighted sissies.
I challenge you to think out 100 years.
How many people can you influence over the next 100 years? A million? Ten million? Why not a billion?
[No, I am not insane.]
I’ve run an email newsletter to coach encourage pastors and Bible teachers since 2006. I’m one guy writing and responding to all the emails. I’ve had just over 15,000 unique people on the mailing list. Based on the surveys I’ve done, those 15,000 people preach and teach to – conservatively – 1.6 million unique people in a year. I estimate that since I began, I have indirectly influenced 5.4 million people at the 2nd level. I have no way to know how many of those 5.4 million people have influenced others at the 3rd level. Is it possible that over the next two generations my coaching will have influenced 100 million or more?
That’s just one area of leadership where I am leaving a legacy. There is my family and community of friends. There is my corporate work. There is the Asmithblog audience and the LinkedIn audience. There have been other areas and will be others still, Lord willing.
Genuine leadership always creates leverage because you’re influencing people who in turn influence others. The communication technologies we have today can amplify our influence.
A now-retired VP I greatly admired would routinely remind us, “You can get an awful lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Thousands or millions of people may not know your name, but the influence is no less real.
100 years: You have considerably more leadership influence potential than you realize. Use it.