In early February 2003, we kicked off an 18-month leadership program for the top 70 leaders of a large municipal government. We designed an experience to help them better lead their organization into the future. It was the first time the city was engaging in this type of development for its senior leaders.
We began the launch session by showing an image of a sky filled with clouds, some were white and puffy, but others were dark and gray. We positioned that their future was like this image and that as leaders, they would need to come together to lead their organization in a very different way than they had in the past.
We then spent time discussing what they believed would be the critical threats and opportunities in their operating environment. The leaders shared a very rosy and optimistic view of their future. The only significant risk they identified was a potential terrorist attack that could happen in their city. Like many at that time, they were still dealing with the psychological aftermath of 9/11.
After that first session, there was a lot of optimism and a high degree of confidence in the room. My colleague and I were also excited about the opportunity to work with them. It was all feeling pretty good. I was also looking forward to the second session, scheduled to take place about eight weeks later.