Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leading with Foresight in Light of Government and Economic Intervention

Written by: on February 2, 2013




/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;

Foresight is an invaluable tool for any leader. Robert Greenleaf in Servant Leadership says foresight for the servant-leader is the ability to foresee the likely outcome of a situation. One knows it when one sees it. Foresight is a characteristic that enables the leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequences of a decision for the future. It is deeply rooted in the intuitive mind. Thus, foresight is the one servant-leader characteristic with which one may be born, all other characteristics can be purposefully developed (Greenleaf, 1977).

J. F. Kennedy greatly demonstrated this leadership characteristic of foresight during the Bay of Pigs – Cuban Missile Crisis incident. He called Khrushchev’s bluff when Russia was sending nuclear missiles to Cuba by setting up a navy ship barrier around the island.  This could have caused a world war but resulted in a positive outcome for the United States – the missiles went back to Russia.

 I have often pondered this leadership characteristic. I have seen many a leader fail because they could not see how the past related to potential future actions and how potential actions would create future results. Leaders today face many economic challenges and need to use the gift of foresight to move their companies ahead and not towards bankruptcy.

Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation analyzes the economic and political- social relationships of the collapse of the nineteenth-century civilization and the great transformation that Polanyi had lived through in the twentieth. He concluded that four institutions were crucial to the economic and political order of the nineteenth century: a balance of political power, the international gold standard, a self-regulating market system and the liberal state. The collapse of these pillars through the failure of the gold standard, a result of the imposition of the free market created inequality, war, oppression and social turmoil through Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.

Polanyi demonstrates the ability to analyze the past and to conclude what factors caused the “Great Transformation.” As leaders, we can learn from Polanyi about how to analyze past events to learn forward and not to duplicate the mistakes of the past. This is only the first 2/3rds of foresight. The next step is to brainstorm possible future actions and to anticipate what results they would create.

A good example of Health Care leaders using foresight is found in Government intervention to reduce fraud in the Medicare payment system through RAC (Recovery Audit Contractors) audits. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, Congress required a permanent and national RAC program to be in place by January 1, 2010. The national RAC program is the outgrowth of a successful demonstration program that used RACs to identify Medicare over-payments and underpayments to health care providers and suppliers in California, Florida , New York , Massachusetts , South Carolina and Arizona . The demonstration resulted in over $900 million in over-payments being returned to the Medicare Trust Fund between 2005 and 2008 and nearly $38 million in underpayments returned to health Care providers (http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/factsheet.asp?Counter=3292&intNumPerPage=10&checkDate=&checkKey=&srchType=1&numDays=3500&srchOpt=0&srchData=&keywordType=All&chkNewsType=6&intPage=&showAll=&pYear=&year=&desc=&cboOrder=date).

Leaders in the health care industry have been preparing for this program for a few years. ABHOW (American Baptist Homes of the West), the company I work for, had their first RAC audit two months ago. In our business, in the Governments eyes, health care does not happen to patients unless it has been documented in a medical record properly. We have implemented new software programs, digital medical records that we can monitor and evaluate to ensure proper documentation. We have also implemented our own RAC audits in preparation of this new Government regulation. I am pleased to report that the medical records that were reviewed were accepted with no penalties. This is one example of using foresight to prepare for economic changes in the future.

As a leader, how do you use foresight to stay ahead of the changes you face? Please share an example.

Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership. New York: Paulist Press, 1977.

Polanyi, Karl.  The Great Transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1944. 

About the Author


Leave a Reply