I think most of us were brought up with the idea that some sort of stability was normality. That every so often an event would come along and things would become unstable for a bit, but then they would return to “normal”.
Perhaps that idea was a myth, perhaps there never was a normal, perhaps life has always lurched about, never quite finding a comfortable equilibrium.
Or maybe there was a post-war golden age when there was some kind of stability, from 1950 until the oil crisis of the 1970s. When communism was the enemy and all westerners had to do was go to work and shop and everything would be OK.
Today we seem to be perpetually on the brink of being overwhelmed by the level of change.
- The level of innovation and discontinuous change in almost every area of business from energy generation to retail and from publishing to automotive is astonishing. Any business that is not reinventing itself within a five year timeframe looks antiquated.
- The debate over whether oil is running out or not will run and run. Whether it is or not it is absolutely clear that political and economic reliance on oil is now extremely risky. No one working in the west today has any experience of a non oil economy, and yet if we want to keep western society moving we have to change to one – fast.
- The seismic political shifts in the Middle East are closer in parallel to Europe in the mid 19th Century than to the relatively quick and quiet Eastern European revolutions of the late 20th Century. It will take some time for them to play out. In the best case scenario we end up with an Arab renaissance, with pluralistic and representative governments guiding North Africa and the Middle East to prosperity, but the path may well be long and dangerous.
- Climatic events will affect economics and politics. Climate generated poverty will lead to unrest and migration as well as more localised effects of flooding, drought and costal erosion.
- The West has virtually bankrupted itself, the lifeline for European economies is currently China (last years growth in the Germany economy was largely due to sales to China).
To prosper in such complex, unpredictable and fast moving circumstances requires a pluralistic approach to leadership. Hierarchy can work when circumstances allow focus on a single challenge, but it is woefully inadequate in more dynamic situations.
In dynamic situations (read “the foreseeable future”) we need many, many more leaders than are typically found in hierarchies. We need everyone one to lead, we need everyone to take responsibility, when their skills, location or situation are appropriate. We can no longer afford to have people obediently waiting for instructions or simply doing what they are told.
We need everyone to be able to think for themselves and act responsibly, particularly when under pressure. In business, politics and in public service.
The opportunities exist in abundance, they always do in periods of change – we just need enough leaders to realise them.
In response to these challenges, this year I am teaming up with my good friends at LifeXperiences to offer the most powerful leadership development program you can imagine.
The program uses the inspiring scenery of Mallorca and tailored levels of physical activity to enable participants to develop and practice their leadership skills under pressure.
The physical and emotional (people being pushed to their personal limit) experiences are integrated with the intellectual challenge of training in Authentic Leadership.
The result is confident leaders at all levels, ready to take responsibility, ready to lead and able to keep their heads, even under extreme pressure.
If you are interested in such an outcome for your team or organisation we can put together an appropriate package tailored to your people and objectives. We can also offer a “public” version for individuals or smaller businesses if we can get a big enough group together.
See the menu of activities available at www.neilcrofts.com
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