Skilled Anticipation: How To Lead In The Present And Anticipate What’s Next

Anticipation is an underrated and overlooked leadership skill. A leader's ability to recognize and respond to future uncertainties is a key advantage.

Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo

Strategic anticipation is an underrated and overlooked skill of successful leaders. A leader’s ability to recognize and respond to future trends and uncertainties, allowing them to assess possible results and seize opportunities is crucial.

We often see strategic anticipation play out in sports. Skilled athletes anticipate the actions and outcomes of their opponents. It’s a distinct advantage. The ability to quickly and accurately predict the outcome of an opponent’s action before that action is completed is key to winning––and intentional. Skilled anticipation in sports is expected. But what about anticipation as it relates to business and leadership?

Companies prefer to consider the concepts of innovation and change management. While these ideas are excellent, an emphasis placed on skilled anticipation can create a competitive advantage. The best leaders not only lead in the present but can anticipate what is next.


Strategic anticipation: Four changes leaders can expect


1. Leaders can handle multiple issues, but they must be ready for any issue

Risk mitigation and planning is essential in leadership. Good leaders know how to peer into the future and anticipate setbacks before they occur. A good leader must be ready for challenges they did not prepare for or predict. They must develop their leadership muscle by thinking through scenarios and be ready for an issue when it arises.


2. Leaders can be talented and experienced, yet still, be blindsided by new challenges

Many leaders can expect what will happen, but the best leaders prepare for scenarios that fall outside of their expectations. When you’re running a business, some days can seem unchanged, and then there are a few days that will be strikingly inconsistent. How do you react on days when you’re blindsided, by occurrences big or small?

When you have a “reaction” game plan, you become ready for the unexpected and reduce recovery time when the unforeseen occurs so you can get back to the business at hand.


3. A leader can face crises that become significant stepping stones for the climb to a new level

Crises in business never happen when things are easy. Difficulties seem to occur at the worst times. Every leader gets stuck sometimes — often at the worst times and in the worst places. However, it is in those difficult places you learn a lot about yourself and your leadership capabilites.

In uncertain times, you find yourself. It is often the worst of situations that guide leaders to breakthroughs and ultimate success.


4. A leader can be headed in one direction and find a new and better path along the way

Ask any leader where they’re going and they’ll more often than not have a destination in mind.

Leaders want to move to the desired state they believe is better for the company. Forward movement in business is intentional, but it can also lead to unexpected places. When this happens, think strategically, act quickly, and focus intently.


Grasping a clear view of the future

“Getting a clearer view of what is out there and anticipating the future reduces the feelings of uncertainty and creates confidence,” according to CMO writer David Reilly. “And not anticipating change can potentially be fatal.”

There are few certainties in life, business, and leadership. However, leaders that anticipate the future have a better chance of achieving in the future.


Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.


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