Sending a crisp salute to all loyal Leadership Toolbox readers out there! Capt. Fletch, happy to be here with you for another discussion of our favorite topic: leadership! Last month, we looked at bridging the gap between the training environment and the field, and how to build a training program to accomplish that critical task. This month, as part of our future-minded issue of The Driller, I would like to explore what the future of leadership may look like from today’s vantage point.

I prefer to focus on today because I find that thinking too far ahead distracts me and makes me nervous. However, at times I find value in examining past, present and future. I think we can all agree — no matter which way we look at the recent past or the present — things have not been as ideal lately as we all had hoped. I do not refer specifically to any challenge, issue, problem, person, leader, etc., because everyone gets dealt their own hand. I find few who would say they have nothing that concerns or worries them now, or who feel confident about the leadership landscape today. So, what does this mean for leadership in the future?

To me this question begins with a willingness to look for good leadership in places and people you may not normally get exposure to. In other words, start with an open mind. With an open mind, the question becomes what does good leadership look like? The answer comes down to perspective. An open mind can help expand that perspective, and have us consider good leaders (and different methods) we might not otherwise.

In the near future — maybe the next 15 years or so, I fear leadership will suffer from a lack of willingness to discuss perspectives different from our own. Often, we avoid talking about politics — and for good reason. Politics sits at the root of our bleak outlook on leadership and we cannot simply blame one person or group. We like to believe that, faced with jobsite challenges, we seek solutions from everyone on the team and hear each out respectfully and with an open mind, but do we really? Do we listen first without filtering what we hear through our own thoughts or opinions? Are we willing to have difficult discussions and admit when we do not know the answer or accept responsibility for a mistake, or even concede some ground in a disagreement?

In the near future — maybe the next 15 years or so, I fear leadership will suffer from a lack of willingness to discuss perspectives different from our own.

We, as a society, obviously have some work to do figuring out how to get back to respectful discussions of things we disagree about. We’re trying hard, and that’s a good thing! But what about the general construction industry? What about our beloved drilling industry? How do we build a culture where we listen first and debate respectfully? How do we as leaders garner input and make decisions everyone can live with? I know, so many questions, right?

Politics provides widely covered, easily accessible, real-time leadership lessons. I also find humor in its dramatic undertones. I find the construction industry not all that different from the politicians we see on TV. Heck, even the military was not all that different, at times. I have watched grown adults refuse to compromise over change orders. I have seen project managers blame all the issues of a job on the team. I have seen people commit unethical business practices with bids and justify it by saying, “Everyone does it” (after which I swiftly decided that was not a place for me to continue working).

Elections made the big news in politics this week. I watched two key outcomes. I thought the two races — one of each political party — offered some promising leadership examples, at least in their first few public addresses. (I preface these examples by saying that I do not advocate for one side or another, but merely want to point out recent positive leadership principles.) First, New York City elected Eric Adams as mayor. I did not catch his acceptance speech, but I have read statements he gave on issues key to the people of the city. One that caught my eye: He agreed to revisit the vaccination mandates implemented by the outgoing mayor. How you or I feel about this issue is irrelevant here. But he took a step as if to say, “I understand this is an issue we disagree about. I am not saying I will simply agree with one side or the other, but rather I want to revisit this and hear everyone with an open mind.” I’d call that a leadership 2035, forward way of thinking. It shows a leadership that can bring people together to work toward a decision everyone can live with.

In Virginia, Glen Youngkin and Winsome Sears became the duo to lead the state through its next chapter. After sifting through all the opinions about this race, I think the way Youngkin listened to the concerns of Virginians ultimately gave him the edge. I read that, when he started his campaign, only 2% of voters knew who he was. Fast forward to November 2021 and he takes office as the next governor of Virginia because he won over those voters by hearing them out.

These leaders of both political parties both took initial steps that signal hope for the future. Whether either leader writes a positive chapter remains to be seen.

The unknowns in the future of leadership can make it scary, even for the tough folks in this industry. But, let me remind you of the central role exploring the unknown plays in drilling. As leaders, we often hesitate to delegate responsibility, even to people we trust. They may not do it the way we feel it should be done. But what if we approached leadership in our industry with an open mind and a willingness to discuss or debate things to reach the best solutions? What great things could we accomplish if we led with a “leadership 2035” mindset? Our world has promising leaders, some right in our back yard. We just need to open our minds and recognize they may not be what we expected. Such a leadership tool would make our industry a trailblazer and one everyone wants to be part of. Until next time, keep the drill bit spinning. Fletch, over and out.