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Major Challenge in Business: The Future of Leadership

Global EngagementIn my opinion, the future of leadership is always changing and it will continue to change. However, it’s human nature, that we often want to categorize everything and everyone into small, manageable boxes subject to fixed rules and processes.

It is also evident in businesses today that we are dealing with short-term thinking, a disposable view of people as assets and the persistent drive of leadership self-preservation. We seem to have devalued people, relationships and values down to simple dollars and cents which never works, if you are looking for a sustainable business.

It gets further complicated when we see the rate of change & complexity increasing daily and the challenges faced by every individual and organization are morphing, evolving and becoming more interdependent than ever before.

Today, I feel comfortable saying that successful leadership is a hybrid of art & science with no hope of a one size fits all solution.

When we try to make predictions of the future, often they have a way of turning out to be sadly, disastrously or hilariously, wrong.  Many leadership theorist avoid predictions and say they are not willing risk their reputations. They fear telling future leaders how they may have to lead a quarter century from now?

Yet, predict we must. Without a plan or prediction, the tendency is to remain cemented in the past or heaven forbid, the infamous comfort zone. It is becoming more important to explore, for the coming generations, to see what might happen if current trends continue.

When espousing predictions, it is never good to be cocky, spontaneous, and emboldened, but rather we should be thoughtful, humble, and respectful about any predictions, more than 1 year in the future.  To meet the huge problems of tomorrow, it is always useful to be proactive, collaborative, creative, and innovative.

For example, we have made major strides in the environment, anyone remember the smog alerts and landing a plane into a big brown bubble of smog called Chicago or LA, I do and I am grateful for those changes. However, if current trends continue, we know, but are unwilling to articulate, the mess we will be in.

As the potential cuts are being made by the current administration in many areas of regulatory control, businesses should be smart enough to know that what gets turned back now can come back with a vengeance under a new administration, so it is better to stay on a steady improvement track. This requires focused leadership.

There is always a possibility that human intervention might change that direction, or science might begin working on solutions to the problem but it can be just as likely that it might turn into a major crisis of the next generation

If we know we are careening down a road that leads to a cliff in 5 miles, do we ignore that fact or do we become proactive and change the direction we are headed. There have been too many documented cases where the course has not changed and the outcome was disastrous. By looking forward, we can change course now, to avoid the cliff towards which we are headed.

There are definite signs that accelerating levels of change are overwhelming people. Even if leaders manage to stay on top of things, who remains to be led?

The problem is that everyone likes progress but no one wants to change. We also know that change is both inevitable and necessary. It’s easy to get lost, feel left out or left behind.

In our hyper-connected world, there is a crisis of modernization in which many can’t keep up, they feel the rug being pulled from beneath their feet, they feel lost and alone, even helpless in the face of such changes. Some have referred to this as “hyper-change”, which is a good description for it.

These feelings provide some of the factors that lead people to the seek the safety and security of their comfort zones or the desire to be an isolationist. Many are looking for the promise of a simple, uniform answer and answers to all our confusing questions.

Personally, I believe we are living in a VUCCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Chaotic and ambiguous) world. We seek certainty so we perceive we have something firm to cling to as the world passes us by but it still alludes us. We can call the unprecedented forces hitting us all at once “hyper-change”; how does it differ from conventional models of change?

“Hyper-change” refers to the convergence of four “unstoppable” forces that we must confront to manage our future. In previous generations, these were separate pillars that could be ignored but that is no longer the case.

When they were simple pillars any change could be a choice because people thought, the pillars would remain static and permanently in place. Well, the pillars have morphed into a force and few anticipated that happening.

First is globalization; many want to turn off globalization and return to days when everyone could hide behind a wall. This is nothing more than wishful thinking. We are faced with a world today that is hyper-connected and hyper-social so there is only one way to deal with it and that is head-on collaboration.

Anyone who feels that we can go back to a city-state structure to avoid globalization I must ask where they learned their history. There are several reasons for the failure ranging from internal disruption to external subjugation.

Quote from Aldus Huxley’s “A Brave New World”:

“A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. “

Understanding and making collaboration and globalization work will take some massive attitude changes in leadership and all stakeholders in a company. There must be a seismic shift from a desire for uniformity to one of unity with diversity.

Secondly, demographic changes: as generations are shifting and the aging population is desiring to continue working because they are healthier and quite honestly, they need the money since retirement plans of 50 years ago, no longer work. Businesses have not figured out how to handle this issue.

While I believe, this issue is a fabricated one, we can’t ignore it. We spend so much time trying to put people into boxes that we forget they are human and therefore unique, unpredictable, and often selfish so the best way to deal with it is going to be based in a new model of leadership.

Thirdly, technology: Today many are living in fear of artificial intelligence and robots taking over their jobs and the fear is real but businesses are not being proactive in dealing with the human factors of this shift. That a breakdown of leadership.

Prognosticators and science fiction writers have been writing about this for decades while the then current technology could not support it. However today we are seeing more and more incursion of technology into formally untouched job arenas making everyone more unsettled.

Lastly, the environment.  As I mentioned before, we have made significant strides in this area but with business interests looking to increase profits, reduced regulations and the current administration is leaning towards doing just that.

There has been a change in the public attitudes that may make this a very confrontational topic in the future. Historically, workers tolerated the pollution and bad working environments because of a paycheck but that is no longer the case in many areas. Can this take place again, possibly, but now without a fight and it will take a catastrophic change for it to go back there.

However, my warning to leaders, beware of administrations bearing gifts because when a new administration comes in this could reverse and amplify overnight.


The forces that are changing our approach to leadership are going to continue to be more demanding and more complex than ever before.  The four forces discussed above are not going to disappear nor can they be stuffed into a box and put into storage.

It will take innovative, creative and transparent leadership to deal with the major roadblocks are that are becoming more visible and annoying for everyone. Are you one that wants to be a leader in this new world or one that wants to hide and hope it goes away? The choice is yours!

If you would like more information on this subject, please feel free to contact me via my website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me at 630-454-4821.