Linal Harris shared his list of five things visionary leaders should know when he spoke at Claflin University’s 2014 Spring Convocation on Thursday.
“The first thing is, know your era,” the U.S. Cellular vice president and chief diversity officer said. “Know your century, know your world, and then know what’s next.
“A lot of adults today, they don’t even know what century they live in. Some folks are still stuck in the 20th century, in the 1990s. This is the 21st century, and we are 13 years into the 21st century.”
A lot has happened in the United States and around the world since 2001, Harris said, including 9/11, the war on terrorism, the recession, the election of the nation’s first black president, and the advent of Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and iPhones.
“All of these things happened at the same time to define what’s going on for us in the 21st century,” he said. “Facebook has defined a lot of what we’re up to in the 21stcentury. … And it’s hard to imagine a world without the iPhone.
“This is the new normal. This is the 21st century.”
To get to know the world we live in, Harris suggested traveling. He said what you see in the world will serve as inspiration for your life’s vision and purpose.
And know what’s coming next. During his address, Harris predicted the end of the information age and the opening of the door for what he believes will be the next big advancement in the history of the world – robots replacing human laborers.
“What you do today, at this University, counts more than you know, because you are preparing your mind to not be the person that’s lifting boxes that can be replaced, but the person that’s creating what’s in the box,” he said, citing the recent examples of a million robots being ordered by Malaysia-based electronics manufacturer Foxconn and self-serve kiosks popping up at international locations of fast food giant McDonald’s.
“Just because you don’t see it here doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” he said. “It’s happening, so keep your ears to the ground and know what’s next because it will impact your future. It’s going to impact all of our futures.”
Just as important is to know when to ignore the crush of information that is constantly bombarding today’s society, Harris said.
“You’ve got Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, iCloud, YouTube, Vine,” he said, but “you can’t see every news feed, you can’t see every picture, you’re not going to be able to read every Tweet, you can’t watch every video and you can’t watch every television show.”
“Manage your media, because your media is not making you money, and it’s not going to help you create a vision,” Harris continued. “If you want to be a visionary, you’re going to have to be able to disconnect, you’re going to have to meditate, you’re going to have to think and read and understand what’s happening.
“If you manage your media, you can manage your mind, and if you control your mind, you can control your world.”
Be yourself, Harris advised the audience – don’t worry about blending in and being just like everyone else. And know your purpose in life.
“If you don’t know your purpose today, your number one job is to define your purpose,” Harris said. “There should be no other priority greater than that. It provides direction, and it will help you make difficult choices.”
Rounding out his list, Harris said it is imperative for visionary leaders to be open-minded listeners and stay persistent through all of life’s trials.
“If you just sit back and listen to somebody, they will tell you all their strengths, all their weaknesses, all their insecurities,” he said. “Active listening is hard … but when you listen to learn, you will walk away with so much wisdom.
“Dare to be great, and when you run into that wall – because you will – climb over it, and if you can’t climb, then dig underneath it, and if you can’t dig, then walk around it, and if you can’t walk, then take a hammer and start hitting it, and hit it every hour, hit it every day, hit it every month, hit it every year until you break through, because if you hit anything with persistence, over and over and over again, it will break.
“You can do whatever you put your mind to.”
The Convocation signals the beginning of the 2014 spring semester. Other highlights of the event included performances by the Claflin University Concert Choir, remarks by University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale and Student Government Association President Dwayne Coleman, and an appearance by Claflin’s Wind Ensemble.