Leaders have never had to deal with so much change, at such speed and with so much complexity and intensity. The result is constant overwhelm, with leaders struggling to do Business As Usual let alone spearheaded external innovations and internal transformation to ensure they are match fit to survive and thrive in the Digital Age.
Few leaders have been taught or trained how to lead in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambitious (VUCA) world where fast and furious changes are driving a triple threat – and so triple opportunity – for every leader.
Firstly we are fully grappling with the implications of a networked reality in which people, places and products being connected in ways never been seen before (and that are hard to grasp). AI, the blockchain, the Internet of Things and 3D printing will impact everything we do and everybody on the planet in unprecedented and unpredictable ways. Every leader needs to stop ignoring or repressing this reality and see how they are going to change themselves and their organisation to cope.
Secondly, seismic cultural changes are underway as younger people enter the workforce and consumer marketplace. Born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, their have a generational demand for equality, empowerment and ethics whether as customers or employees. Industrial Age motivational levers like power, promotion and profit often fall flat on their ears and fail. Many senior leaders I work with struggle to cope with leading these cohorts of people.
Finally, we are in am increasingly stressed world, dealing with major global risks like climate change, pollution, inequality and clinical depression. Every leader must reckon with their own stress, anxiety and sense of purpose and value… whilst ensuring their teams and employees find a way to stay healthy, creative and, ultimately, become part of the solution not the problem.
This emerging reality demands a new kind of leadership. I call it liquid leadership. Every human being was born with the two brain networks they need to master liquid leadership. The first, the Cognitive Control Network, puts us in what I call Control and Protect Mode: Linear and logical, we follow best-practice using existing rules to improve things – but don’t have the creativity we need adapt as times change.
But we all have another brain network, the Default Mode Network, which allows us to enter Create and Connect Mode. Insightful and imaginative, we forge next-practice by solving new problems with fresh thinking and ideas and more relevant new processes and behaviours.
Leaders who can consciously choose the mode they are in can metabolise constant changes in the external world into exponential value within organisations: whether through digital transformations or disruptive innovations. With flexibility within, we can forge the future we want to see not just be whipped around by the cyclones of change.
This is radical behavioural agility grounded in radical emotional stability. This is the future of leadership.
Watch Nick’s video on the Future of Leadership:
Nick Jankel, is an award-winning author, thought leader, serial entrepreneur and founder of WECREATE WORLDWIDE. Nick develops original ideas and powerful tools to ensure leaders can constantly metabolise fast and change into exponential value. Nick inspires people with the limitless opportunities on offer within the networked age – from disruptive business models and org cultures to future cities and styles of leadership – as well as how to leave behind industrial-age thinking to become agile and entrepreneurial enough to seize them.