Articles Tagged ‘Self knowledge’

Leaders Coping with Rapid Change

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011


Rapid Change, Identity Crisis, and Leadership Fundamentals:
How to Become a Leader of the Future

As we all know, our world is rapidly changing. In fact, the time-scale for change has suddenly become short compared to a human lifespan. This is both exciting and also very unsettling for most of us. As change accelerates, the demands placed on us as leaders are accelerating as well. As leaders, we hold the task of not only understanding the changes that are occurring, but also facilitating changes in others as we work to adapt to the new environmental realities.

One the most significant and least understood results of the rapid pace of change is how
it affects our identity. For decades, it was easy to draw our identity from our role in stable
companies. In fact, you could be employed by the same company for your entire adult
working career. Combined with the greater stability of marriages prior to the 70’s, it was
easier decades ago to have a strong sense of identity from what appeared to be a stable
world at home and at work.

But today as change marches on with increasing vigor, those external factors that
contributed to a stable identity are in flux. The company that you work for today, that
gives you a strong sense of identity may not be there tomorrow, next week, or next year.
And coming home to find that your spouse has decided to exodus your marriage is not
uncommon these days either. Therefore, as a leader, it’s easy to find your own identity in
a state of flux.

This new dynamic world that we find ourselves living in is demanding something different
from us as leaders: to begin a journey inward, and to create a strong, solid inner
foundation from which we can lead, live and respond to our rapidly changing world. Put
another way, today’s world is inviting us to go back to the basics and master the
fundamentals that are critical to strong leadership and personal well-being. The
increasing complexity of the world is demanding that we evolve as people and as
leaders, that we anchor our identity not on something external to us, but on something
within us. We are being challenged to develop an unshakeable inner character and
strength that can weather the storms brought on by rapid and unpredictable changes.
This invitation to turn inward applies not only to us as leaders, but also to those we are
leading. Today’s quickly-changing world is demanding that more and more people take a
leadership role, to be more proactive in contributing to the world around them. The day
of putting leaders on a pedestal and expecting them to solve all the problems are rapidly
ending. Today’s world is demanding that each individual step into a leadership role,
taking more responsibility for who they are, how they show up, and how they are – and
can – contribute to the company’s and world’s well-being and future. We are all being
asked to grow up and achieve higher levels of maturity.

Recently, my coach and I were discussing how many of the leadership development
programs of today just aren’t that effective, as reported by leaders themselves. This is
true, in part, because many leaders simply do not have a philosophy of leadership on
which to ground their learning. We have substituted shallow “learning about” – which
includes an arsenal of tips and techniques – for a deep embodiment of learning that is
anchored in who we are as leaders and what we stand for. In other words, the typical
leadership development program doesn’t get down into the BEING level of who we are
as a person. We consume learning programs like we consume products: buy it, digest a
little of it, get a small sense of accomplishment around it, and then discard it – moving on
to the next one.
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