Leadership and vision: Setting the agenda

February 7, 2011

Many people believe that the CEO should have the “vision thing.”  I believe that our presidents (plural!) and other elected officials  should have the the “vision thing,” that it is their responsibility to set the priorities and anticipate problems before they occur.

It appears to me that these officials too often don’t even think about anticipating problems before they occur, let alone initiate preventive actions.

For example:  On February 2nd,  the Washington Post ran a story, Why does Fresno have thousands of job openings- and high unemployment? The answer, of course is that there is a mismatch between job openings and the skill sets of job applicants.  Duh!

We seem to be discovering this nation-wide mismatch only recently, when it has, in fact, been on its way for at least 25 years.

For example, when I was in my MBA program (1984-5), I wrote a paper, “What to do about the coming structural unemployment.”  In the paper  (lost to posterity because I created it on a floppy disk using my Apple IIe), I addressed the unemployment/change in employment opportunities that would result from the two obvious trends:  globalization and greater use of robotics.

If the trends and their impacts were obvious to me, surely they were obvious to countless others.

So here is the question:  Why didn’t we, as a country, pay more attention to this problem earlier?

My answer is two-fold:

1. Elected officials are really fire-fighters who are so busy putting out the the current fires, they don’t have time to attend to the likely future ones.

2. We get the government we deserve.

On the business (as opposed to the political) front:  Is the phenomenon described above any different from the leadership of  Blockbuster and Borders being late to the technological revolution?

Why do some people “see” while others do not?