Here is the forward to our new book – Stealing from the future… and how you can stop it
Leadership in crisis
Is the world about to end? The climate is changing and the environment facing collapse. Politics is in tumult. Technology is runaway, with social media destroying how we relate to one another. War, terrorism, resource depletion, food supply and water conservation, energy, extreme religion, misogyny, pornography, unbridled immigration, fake facts, and hate; all of these stresses and more are blinking the hot, red light of crisis in our global culture, and we feel we are at breaking point. We fear the potential outcome of these multiple challenges, leading us to wildly speculate that a dramatic extinction event is about to happen.
Although many of these deep challenges are urgent, this is not a book that supports the ‘doomsday’ view. By any measure, with the exception of climate change, most global indices are improving.
We suggest that is is not the world that is in crisis, but leadership.
The authors of this book co-Founded Holos, a leadership, culture and change consultancy for the digital age, in 2014. Holos means ‘whole’. Both Neil and Mark have worked across the world throughout our careers, developing leadership, culture and change as a professional discipline for the last fifteen. Separately and together, we have participated in and helped to shape some of the most demanding corporate change efforts of the early part of the century, including the rehabilitation of BP after the Gulf of Mexico accident in 2010, and Barclays Bank after the LIBOR and PPI scandals from 2013. Our research pool comprises tens of thousands of leaders, thousands of teams, hundreds of peer practitioners, and dozens of businesses, ranging across the world from Brisbane to Birmingham, Stockholm to Soweto.
Whilst we cannot hope to have answers to the world’s problems, we do have some clarity on the power and interconnectedness of leadership, culture, and change, and some great examples of when they work brilliantly together. We also have some understanding of just how poorly understood leadership is in business and much of the public sector. Leadership, culture and change have come to be treated as three separate subjects or disciplines, when in fact they relate as one. We hope, through exploring the nature of what is happening across our planet in these early years of the 21st Century, that we can come to a shared, optimistic and clear view of the potential in human collaboration when based on interdependent principles and the pursuit of shared vision.
This is a book about the general and specific skills required to be great at understanding, mastering and leading agile, versatile change. With our observations gleaned from intensive and practical work in all of these areas, we want to re-shape the hackneyed idea that change efforts must be difficult, long, or doomed to fail. We want to reinforce and embrace the truth that change is universal and easy, occurring as a constant everywhere. Using this concept as the key, we hope to further unlock and accelerate the widespread leadership of the plural, inclusive and transparent values that are in fact on the rise all across the world.
Although we do reference and give examples from business and corporate life, and some of the modelling in Part II of the book refers to organisational change, this is not a strictly business book, nor one aimed exclusively at CEOs and senior leaders. We want it to be in the hands of every person in the world who aspires to lead positive change more authentically, purposefully, and successfully in your own lives, families, communities, organisations and societies. Our intent in writing is twofold: to develop and extend the body of thought on leadership as a skill that is accessible to everyone, and, second, to inspire some to take leadership for the first time, and others to expand the scope and influence of their existing leadership.
There are thousands of books on leadership, each valid in their own way. How does this add to that work?
We will attempt to explain this period of extreme disruption breaking upon humanity. It is of course created by us, yet it is not planned and has never happened before, creating unique challenges, responses, and opportunities. Adding to an already disrupted economic and social landscape, what political events such as Brexit and the Presidency of Donald Trump have brought into focus is that a void in authentic leadership will be filled by influences that may not necessarily bring about the changes we desired at the start. If we had forgotten, we are re-learning that leadership is also critical to well-being, and well-being is dependent on minimal conflict or division.
Leadership is about the future, not the present, and at present as a species we are generally, and for the most part blindly, stealing from it.
The threats listed in the opening paragraph above are so global, so complex, and so nebulous, it feels impossible to wrap our minds and responses around them in the way we could the Great Depression or Nazism. We fear what is unknown, and behave in our own interests. Yet now, because of humanity’s unprecedented reach, we are reaping the consequence of this myopic behaviour. Never before have we felt – and been – so fundamentally and personally responsible. The arrival of this state has been so swift and unannounced that it has caused simple and predictable reactions, such as shock, bafflement, denial, anger, blame, resistance, and retreat.
In this book we will make a critical distinction. We will divorce the subject of leadership from the personal traits and whims of individual leaders, and focus instead on the necessity for inclusive and interdependent vision.
In Part I we will look at the ‘why’; the context, philosophy and argument for the promotion of authentic leadership that creates change cultures that can be sustained. In Part II we offer the ‘how’; our accumulated insights into the personal habits and disciplines that can be adopted at individual and organisational levels, which are intended more as a reference and for dipping in and out. We will also make the case that the alternative to “stealing from the future” is “sustained success”, and not a loss of competitiveness for business, governments or nations.
Lastly, we hope to share a new leadership language, exploring why there exists simultaneously leadership that loudly divides, next to leadership that quietly unites. Out there is a huge community of authentic and purposeful people who are already making profound differences to each other, their communities, and the flora and fauna of our planet. If the problems we face are created by short-sighted extractive management, the solutions devised will require a huge increase in long-term, investing leadership. If Bosses and Rulers have been our past, our future must be led by Visionaries and Authentics, or we may indeed eventually face that doom so many predict.
Stealing from the future…. and how you can stop it, will be published in September by Holos and will be available through Amazon both in print and as an e-book and from the Apple iBook store as an e-book. We hope to expand the availability later.
Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.
At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.
Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.
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