Successful leaders anticipate the future

October 25, 2013

Nashville Business Journal


What’s the one thing great business leaders of the last century have seen more clearly than the average person? The future. These innovators’ forward-looking ideas changed the world.

For example, Henry Ford saw a need for a practical, low-priced automobile that would appeal to the masses. His vision led to the production of more than 15 million Ford Model Ts that forever changed the way Americans live and travel. His foresight also led to the introduction of assembly line manufacturing, which improved lives around the world.

Like all retail leaders, Sam Walton instinctively knew hardworking folks wanted lower prices, but he took steps to make affordability come to life. The “Wal-Mart effect” has significantly driven down prices of nearly all consumer goods, benefiting people all over the world.

Steve Jobs’ instincts led him down a path of rapid product innovation that revolutionized how we communicate. Just consider for a moment how smartphones and tablets have changed our lives. Today these products directly and indirectly impact almost every person on the planet.

Likewise, Larry Page and Sergey Brin knew that Internet search was a huge opportunity for technology growth, so they started on a new path. It’s doubtful that when these two young men started they had any idea where Google would be today. But they had an idea for a new tomorrow.

Now ask yourself what you see in the future. Are you anticipating the next events in your industry? In your company? We can’t all be Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, but we can begin to think boldly about the future. What breakthrough ideas do you have for your business? What innovative thoughts are rattling around in your brain? You just might have a nugget of brilliance that could make a difference.

Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO and chairman of Tractor Supply Co.

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