Summary of Anticipate by Rob-Jan de Jong

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Anticipate by Rob-Jan de Jong

What does it take to be a good leader? Is it confidence? Or maybe experience? Or maybe it is the ability to communicate to their followers? The truth is as much as these are all important characteristics that leaders possess, it is not the most crucial one. A good leader has a clear vision of how they want things to be and can get others to follow them to make this vision a reality. It is seen time and time again in politics, business and even education. 

Leaders have vision because they are able to anticipate what will occur when they react to changes in a particular way. It is because of this ability that they can come up with ways that will increase their chances of success. So, how does one develop this vision? 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • The three elements of great vision
  • How to develop your strategies
  • How a great leader acts
  • The power of language

Key lesson one: The three elements of great vision

Did you know the idea of a good leader having vision goes back to Aristotle? It is actually mentioned in his book, On Rhetoric. He stated that in order to have vision, a leader needed three things, Logos, pathos and ethos. 

Logos refers to logic. A leader needs to be able to analyse a situation and develop a logical strategy to ensure the likelihood of a positive outcome. A good example of this comes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. He was able to examine Dubai’s situation of being reliant on the export of oil for revenue. This was a resource that would undoubtedly run out at some point and he knew that Dubai would need a new strategy to ensure long-term prosperity. It was with this thinking that he was able to develop strategies that made Dubai what it is today.

Pathos refers to emotions. A good leader will appeal to people’s emotions to win them over. By appealing to emotions, a leader can get people to believe in the vision that they have developed using logos. An example of this was when Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, used pathos to bring people together so that everyone could have stylish, affordable and functional furniture. He didn’t believe that good furniture should only be available to the wealthy and thus achieved his vision by promoting the fact that together, they could make it possible for everyone. 

The last characteristic of a good leader is ethos. Ethos refers to the personal credibility of a leader. A leader has to be credible for people to trust and follow his vision. After all, most people don’t like change and if someone starts talking about something new, they have to know that the person has integrity. The best example of a leader’s ethos comes from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Amazon has become the world’s biggest online retailer due to the fact that they make customer service their priority. They are constantly innovating ensuring that products and services meet their customer’s expectations. Amazon shareholders, however, are constantly trying to steer Bezos towards making additional profits. But Bezos believes that the company needs to continue investing in improving customer experience on the site because this contributes to Amazon’s overall success. It is because the shareholders trust Bezos and his vision that they leave him to continue as he sees fit for the company. 

The combination of logo, pathos and ethos is therefore important for all leaders. It is these three characteristics that will allow you to bring your vision to reality.

Key lesson two: How to develop your strategies

Once you have your vision, you have to develop a strategy to act on it. When it comes to any vision, it exists between two points. The first point is when you come to find a new idea called the point of surprise. The point of no return is when everyone else is also aware of the idea and you have lost your advantage. If you want to maximize your success you need to make the distance between these two points as large as possible. This will ensure that you remain ahead of your competitors much like John Chambers, the CEO of CISCO. Chambers keeps his company ahead of its competitors by constantly researching trends and developments in the industry. This allows CISCO to sometimes be years ahead of others!

When you have identified the gap that your idea can fill, you will need to develop a vision that can be measured in future. For example, if you anticipate that increasing urbanization will have effects on the way we live in the future.  How will you measure it? The trick is to make your vision more solid in its projection – like saying that in two decades, increased urbanization will lead to only 50 per cent of kids being able to spend time out of the city. Sure, this prediction could turn out wrong, but you have put in place a metric that will help you. You can have strategies in place depending on the outcome. 

Strategies have to be flexible in order to deal with the uncertainties of the future. We all make mistakes, and no matter how good you are at picking up trends, you are bound to make a few errors. Thus it is important that your strategies have room for adaptation. Having strategies that are too rigid or being too stubborn to make changes can lead to disaster. Good leaders must remain open-minded in order to achieve their vision. 

The best option is to have a strategy that takes multiple possibilities into account. This will help you to deal with crises quickly while everyone else is scrambling to come up with a plan.

Key lesson three: How a great leader acts

A leader needs to be credible and therefore is expected to lead by example. Good leaders will never say one thing and then go ahead and do something completely different. How could they if they want to remain credible to others? Leaders have to be authentic and their actions are just as important as their words. 

Leaders also have to be self-aware. They have to be able to admit their mistakes and willing to learn from them. When followers witness this, they will be more likely to trust someone who is able to admit their mistakes. You can aim to boost your self-awareness by determining your core values and goals and remaining true to them at all times. This is the key to visionary leadership.

A leader must also be able to listen carefully and ask questions. These are two skills that seem straightforward but are not. Listening is a skill that everyone takes for granted. We may think we are listening to someone speak, but how often do we interrupt them with our own opinion? A good leader knows that you need to listen to another person without interrupting. It does not matter if you disagree with them, let them voice their opinion. You can thereafter ask questions that can help you see their reasoning. In this manner, you converse with the person making them feel comfortable and free to voice their opinion without being judged. This encourages the person and also leave the conversation open to higher-level thinking. 

Key lesson four: The power of language

The last thing that a good leader needs to work on is their communication skills. Once you have your vision, you need to be able to communicate your vision clearly and concisely. In fact, a leader should be able to get their vision across in no more than three minutes. Being able to do this will let people know that you have a clear vision and they will be impressed with your communicative skills. 

You should also attempt to evoke the imagination of the people you are talking to. This can be achieved by talking about the future. This gets people imagining their futures and getting excited about your vision. A good example comes from the German energy policy. Leaders could have chosen to focus on historical data and what has gone wrong up until this point. Instead, they chose to focus on the future and how they could improve it by increasing carbon-free electricity production. 

Another way to gain the support of your audience is by using powerhouse verbs. These verbs keep listeners engaged and excited. You can use the word discover instead of seeing or mobilize instead of gather. These words are memorable and evoke emotions that recognize the importance of what they are listening to. The language you use can make or break your vision, so a good leader will always keep this in mind when you communicate.

The key takeaway from Anticipate is:

Good leaders are those who have a clear vision and the ability to have others follow them. These characteristics can be learned. Firstly, you must understand the importance of logos, pathos and ethos in your vision. Once you have your vision you have to develop a flexible strategy that will get you there. Leaders should also have great communication skills, be an effective listener and have self-awareness. Once you develop these skills, you too can anticipate the future and become a great leader.

How can I implement the lessons learned in Anticipate: 

Be mindful of the way you communicate. A good leader not only speaks with confidence, but he listens with sincerity. By listening to others, you give them a chance to voice their opinions. You will gain their trust and respect for listening to them as this does not happen often. People often interrupt to give their own opinion or to disagree before the other person finishes speaking. By allowing them to speak without interruption makes room for higher thinking and a more open conversation.

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