There’s a new normal afoot that I’ve taken to calling 3D leadership. You don’t need those cheap plastic glasses to see or experience it. You will however want to think hard about your worldview with an entirely new lens. If you are to be a successful and effective leader you do not have the luxury of viewing your work or its challenges through a single perspective or for that matter just red and blue lenses.
The heavyweight champion boxer Michael Gerard Tyson once noted that every boxer has a plan “until they get punched in the nose.” In the world of military engagement, the notion is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Both ideas suggest that leaders need at least a “plan B”. In a 3D leadership world you’ll want to be thinking about a “plan C” and likely a “plan D” and “plan E”.
If you’re thinking all this additional planning is exhausting you’d be exactly right. If you think it unnecessary and futile, you’d be exactly wrong. In today’s environment the landscape is shifting faster and faster. The pace is truly unrelenting. Keeping up with these shifts is increasingly difficult. The sheer volume of information flowing your way as a leader makes it difficult to discern new patterns and trends. Unless you are looking to the horizon more often than not. In fact, you will need to be thinking about the next two or three sunrises and sunsets along the way.
In my work with business leaders I increasingly hear about shorter and shorter planning cycles–six month sales plans, the 14 day strategy, the weekly bridge strategy–acquiring and linking new technologies to current business processes and projects–before someone else grabs the lead. There are no lost opportunities because someone always finds them. When it comes to 3D leadership that someone best be you. Your career and your organization demand it and in fact they are depending on it.
That’s where the value of 3D leadership also comes to the forefront. Like 3D printing and all its novelty, the notion of 3D leadership may produce some equally funny little prototypes. And that’s exactly the point. Thinking about the wildly unlikely produces surprising breakthrough thinking.
What if one of the products your organization produces was outlawed by county government, a state legislature or Congress? What’s your next move?
What if you work for a firm that experiences a massive data security breach releasing hundreds of thousands of records containing credit card and personal information. What’s your plan of action?
What if your industry came under attack for its use of a renewable resource your opponents claimed was harming the environment? What would you say or do in response?
You can’t always know where the threats and risks will arise. You can however build a 3D leadership style that creates opportunities to explore and plan for the unthinkable. Experience teaches us the time to think about and prepare for a crisis or an unexpected shift for our industry or organization is not when the studio lights at MSNBC or CNN shine in your face for the first time. Here are five steps to increase your value as a 3D leader:
Call It Vision If You Must – With 3D leadership, you must craft your own hypothesis about your organization and your industry. This is what others call leadership vision. Call it what you will, having a strong, well-developed and considered point of view is easily worth a 100 IQ points. Former U.S. Secretary of State General Colin Powell said it best, “People want to share your confidence– however thin–not your turmoil, however real.”
Use a Gossamer Thread To Weave Strength – 3D leadership seeks out disparate threads of information and weave a stronger fabric of intelligence. While today’s information flow is akin to “sipping from a fire hose”, the vast information economy also provides ready access to key data you need to establish a clear sense of direction and to harness your next success. Don’t overlook the power of simple questions. Asking others “How do you feel about the direction we are going in? will produce far deeper conversations and better decision-making than you might imagine. There’s a reason most of us have two ears. Use them.
The Future Is Already Here. Deal With It. – You cannot succeed with 3D leadership in today’s universe adhering to rigid ideals or celebrating the past. Nothing deters followers faster than stories about the “good old days” that lack relevance to the here and now. Savvy 3D leaders acknowledge tradition and honor their organization’s success without holding up the past as prologue. Take it from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, “You have to figure out how can you make the new thing…the death knell for any enterprise is to glorify the past, no matter how good it was.”
The Attention Economy Is Out of Order - One of the most common complaints these days is the increasing difficulty to capture anyone’s attention about almost anything. As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention has become the most valuable asset in the distribution and consumption of information. Finding new ways to breakthrough the clutter has become a 3D leadership imperative. What’s your strategy?
Nothing Is Everything – It’s human nature to think that something we’ve tried and has worked in the past will work again in the future. It’s one of the reasons video games are so annoying and challenging. The playing field is constantly shifting and the critters coming your way never react in the same fashion. So it is for 3D leadership today. Your goal is to deliver valuable, effective solutions to the problems and challenges both known and unknown. You simply cannot rely on one tool or one point of reference and be truly successful. You can however leverage your experience to inspire, give others hope, encourage experimentation and innovation and show your team how and why what they do truly makes a difference. 3D leadership demands you engage others in something bigger than themselves–a higher purpose that delivers real meaningful results.