I always look forward to Alan Murray’s (CEO of Fortune magazine) newsletters. They are a veritable potpourri of information, wisdom and experiences. There are often jewels of advice that emanate from high-flyers that have been through the mill and occupied top spots. We can learn much from these people – about what to do; but also what not to do!
We definitely need this kind of wisdom in the time that we are living through.
In every element of our existence we are experiencing change, paradox, confusion and uncertainty of almost unprecedented proportions. Let’s take a look:
Almost everywhere you look in the world today you see turmoil and uncertainty, confusion and fear. The uncertainty is invariably about the future. The confusion is about not knowing what to do about the future. And the fear is about what that future will bring for me and my family. This has resulted in protests, emigration on a grand scale, a refugee crisis of massive proportions and wild volatility in global financial markets. South Africa is clearly not immune to all of these. As I write this Zuma has finally been recalled but what does the future hold? Who is really holding the tiller of our country?
Our society has been fractured and compartmentalised for decades. It is also going to takes decades for us to work our way into something approaching a normalised integrated people. Communities feel betrayed and let down. They feel rejected and uncared for. Poverty, unemployment, poor education, inadequate health facilities and the spectre of unacceptably high levels of crime hang over all of us. What can we do?
The Fourth Industrial revolution (4IR) is not coming. It is here! Technology is increasingly dominating our lives and our lifestyle. You no longer talk to a banker you engage with a robot and if you don’t have the right answer you go in circles (or mad, or both). It is in every piece of our lives. The change and onslaught is dramatic, discontinuous and never-ending. How do we keep up?
We hear more and more about Climate Change. We know about the drought in and around Cape Town. What about the other major environmental events that are swallowed by other “more sensational” news? News of droughts elsewhere; floods in places where floods were last seen when Noah built his Ark; and runaway fires; and earthquakes; severe snow storms; severe heat waves; and tsunamis. We could go on. Hopefully the picture is clear. These are issues of huge impact. We as individuals can feel helpless to be able to do anything meaningful to make a positive contribution to change the trajectory. But very little bit does count and it begins with your mindset.
Institutions that we have come to rely on are under threat. Some have been intentionally undermined by those of ill-repute. Some have fallen almost into a state beyond repair. With what can we substitute them and what do we do in the interim?
How can it be that the global economy and our major trading partners are all growing while we stagnate. This has much to do with the impact of Zuma and his cronies. We need a nation in which people have confidence. All our fundamentals show that things could turn quickly with the right political and economic leadership. Perhaps we are on the cusp of that happening, perhaps not.
What our country needs now more than ever is visionary, transformative, courageous leadership that provides all with clarity, a clear sense of direction and a collective consciousness which focusses on all the good that exists amongst South Africans at all levels and in all parts of society.
Back to Mr Murray:
He convened a panel of five CEOs on the challenges of leading in an age of accelerating technological transformation. The organizations they represented were diverse—from selling motorcycles (Jason Chinnock of Ducati North America), to hosting video (Susan Wojcicki of You Tube), to operating casinos (Mark Frissora of Caesars), to banking (Stephen Bird of Citi Global Consumer Banking) to training girls (Sylvia Acevedo of Girl Scouts USA.).
Yet they all sounded like they faced the same challenge—how to create cultures that can identify, adopt, and embrace rapid innovation.
He asked them the most important leadership lesson they had learned for managing rapid change. Frissora emphasized the importance of transparency, and Wojcicki echoed that by telling how she holds a management meeting each week at which any employee can ask her any question. Acevedo, noting her organization is largely made up of volunteers, talked of the importance of showing people respect. Bird said he works to create a workplace free from fear, so employees are willing to experiment and take risks. And Chinnock finished up by quoting this advice, which he said he heard just two days earlier:
“Leadership is 35% coaching, and the rest is following. You can’t have all the answers; you have to empower others to find them.”
We have leadership potential in abundance. In my work I see it every day at every level, and from all backgrounds. We need to harness this, give these people the support they need to show the courage they have to lead. If they do this they will eliminate the confusion, give real direction and make a real difference in their part of society. This would be hugely transformative!