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Future-proof your Organisation: 4 things leaders need to know about tomorrow

August 15, 2012 Keith Coats Change, Future Trends, Leadership 1 Comment

“Change is the law of life.” So said John F Kennedy.  He also said, “those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The ability to change – or what can be referred to as ‘adaptive intelligence’ – is, I believe, the most important of all leadership attributes. Leading in this connected and complex world presents new challenges for those in leadership – along with many of the other challenges that have already been well documented and written about. The pace of change has never been what it is today.  Although change has always been part of the DNA no matter what era you choose to focus on, it is the exponential rate at which it is accelerating that makes this era unique. In essence this means that leaders and organisations need to not only recognise this new reality but also intentionally develop coping mechanisms and skill-sets that will help ensure that they don’t ‘miss the future’.

Here are four things that you as a leader can do to ‘future-proof’ yourself and your organisation:

  1. Understand change is first and foremost an attitude. Thinking about the context intelligently and asking the right questions are the forerunners to taking good action. Cultivating the right attitude towards change is necessary in order to follow that through when it comes to actually making the change.
  2. Get the balance of where your attention is focused right. Whilst you might need to begin to think like a futurist, an appreciation for the past and where you have come from is also important.  Driving involves looking not only in front of you at the terrain ahead but also occasionally looking in the rear-view mirror. Both are important for perspective and having a balanced perspective is critical in today’s context.  Of course the trick is not to become trapped by the past and especially by past success.
  3. Understand that the rules pertaining to information have changed. Information is to change what an engine is to a car. Where we get our information, how we get it and store it and how it is disseminated have all been revolutionised by advances in technology and computing. The Cloud, mobile devices and augmented reality all contribute to making this revolution either a threat or an opportunity. Whatever it is to be, one thing is for sure: things are different! So much of the leader’s engagement with this shift in reality comes down to mind-set before issues of skill-sets need to be focused on.
  4. Understand that adaptive challenges require new learning. Much of what confronts you as a leader today can be described as ‘adaptive challenges’. An adaptive challenge means ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do’. The reality facing those in leadership is that you are increasingly encountering situations unlike those ever encountered before. In such situations new learning is required. This is why it is so important that both individuals and organisations work intentionally at being learners. Don’t make the mistake of believing that because your organisation runs a host of learning and development programmes that learning is assured! In many instances such activities are long overdue a revision as to their real impact and effectiveness. However, learning is simply not optional if you are to thrive into the future. We all learn differently and leaders need to take responsibility for not only your own learning but also that of your organisation. Many leaders I know make guest appearances at the opening of such programmes, say a few predictable words and that is about the sum total of their participation and investment in the learning process. Abe Lincoln’s words sound a warning when in 1862 he said, “The certainties of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present.” As our situation is new so we must think anew and act anew’.

JFK was right, ‘change is the law of life’. It is a law that needs to be understood if leaders are to be sure of not ‘falling on the wrong side of it’ for if you do – the future will not be kind to you!

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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Liga says:

    Jane I was wondering if they have told you detrcily that they do not want to be part of an AL process? Perhaps pre-preparing an agenda and leadership skills prior to a session indicate an eagerness to get on with the business? Nonetheless, if I found myself in a similar situation I would be asking the team what they want to get out of Action Learning and then I would work with them to attain that. If it is simply not to participate then perhaps it is not worth flogging a dead horse! If participation is mandated within their organisation, then perhaps in your role as coach you can assist them to make the most of the opportunity even if it ends up being something different to what the organisation had in mind.

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The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Catherine Garland, head of the TomorrowToday Strategic Insights team and previous MD of GFK Research in the United Kingdom
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

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