I recently joined a Fortune 500 company that was established in the mid-1800s. With a large, established brand that’s more than 150 years old, how will it build on this history yet prepare to lead our industry in the future? For small start-ups, being futuristic is easy and natural, as there’s no history to bring along. But for many organizations, it’s a challenge to balance what’s been done in the past with imagining what could be in the future.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we are sharing profiles of four leader types that HBR.org contributor Bill Taylor says can help you lead your business in the coming years.

The Learning Zealot. Effective leaders are considered “leaders” because of the knowledge and experience they can impart on others. They’ve acquired insights throughout their career that they can share. Taylor says the leader of the future isn’t just a teacher, but an “insatiable learner” as well. This type of leader will ask, “Am I learning as fast as the world is changing?”

Taylor gives the example of Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40. He empowered a group of executives and engineers, called Team Tomorrow, to power up learning opportunities throughout the company. And he challenges his employees by asking, “When’s the last time you did something for the first time?”

The Personal Disruptor. In companies like mine, with a long history of success and an established way of doing business, it’s hard to think differently and look for new possibilities. Plus, office politics come into play where executives don’t want to take too big of a risk and rock the boat on something that they can’t control.

Leaders who create disruptive thinking that shakes things up will help companies succeed in the future. Virgin’s Richard Branson is a great example because he’s always trying new businesses and serving communities. Taylor also gives the example of Rosanne Haggerty, one of the country’s great social activists, who launched the 100,000 Homes Campaign which required her to find new ways to tackle the homeless problem. Leaders who are fit for the future understand when it’s time to disrupt themselves.

The Tough-Minded Optimist. As leaders, how we present ourselves and the attitude we exude, sets a tone that helps us get through tough times. If your company is acquired, for example, a positive, enthusiastic attitude is needed to carry the rest of the team through. Taylor, in his article, mentions John Gardner, the legendary scholar on organizational life who states that great leaders exude “tough-minded optimism.” The future, he says, “is not shaped by people who don’t really believe in the future. It is created by highly motivated people, by enthusiasts, by men and women who want something very much or believe very much.” So effective leaders of the future follow a very simple discipline—a positive, enthusiastic attitude.

The Eager Experimenter. As we all know, most of the greatest successes are born out of the biggest failures. Can we say Post-it Note? This product created when a 3M chemist was trying to create a super strong adhesive. He failed, but ended up with the light, easily removable adhesive that we are all familiar with today. Leaders of the future will risk supporting lots of ideas, knowing that most of them won’t deliver as planned, but will discover the few that will deliver bigger than anyone imagined.

Do you see any of these traits in yourself? Adopt at least one of these styles described by Taylor and be prepared to carry your team into the future—in a big way.

Source: Bill Taylor is the cofounder of Fast Company and the author, most recently, of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways. Learn more at williamctaylor.com.