The father of management thinking Peter Drucker famously said: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic”. Now, as we embark on another year, what better time for business leaders to step back and reflect on their leadership? What parts are enduring, emerging, and eroding, and how does this translate into navigating a restless future in 2022 and beyond?
When navigating the future of work, it is clear that fear and uncertainty still dominate. Consider the ‘Great Resignation’ (record levels of employees quitting their jobs), the ‘Big Quit’ and the ‘Great Reassessment’ (two-thirds of employees rethinking their purpose at work). Add to that the ‘Turnover Tsunami’, the ‘Attrition Supercycle’, the ‘Hybrid Paradox’ (what’s our workforce hybrid strategy?) and the ‘Race to Reskill’ (one of the best ways to outpace the forces of disruption is upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling) and it’s no wonder that 78% of leaders report record levels of burnout, mental exhaustion and anticipatory anxiety about the future. Anticipatory anxiety and performance are like oil and water – a performance and innovation killer.
Operating at the edge of uncertainty, context becomes key. Leaders need to strengthen their context-setting, direction setting and pace-setting capability to ensure talent creation and enablement. This mandates:
- context over control;
- autonomy over rules;
- speaking up over silence;
- career agility over career ladders;
- iterative growth mindsets over bureaucratic fixed ones;
- and simplicity over complexity
if you want to stay ahead of the accelerating change curve.
One of the clearest signs of bold leadership is rethinking your assumptions and updating your opinions. To be future-fit in 2022 and beyond, leaders must avoid strategy, transformation or culture drift. Instead, they will choose a path of continuous learning, experimenting and putting purpose to work: embracing an iterative growth mindset over a bureaucratic-fixed mindset. Decisive leaders will be those who take bold action in the face of adversity and scale challenger cultures that are human-led, intentionally diverse, psychologically safe and built for speed. Metrics matter too. New World DNA leaders care about return on intelligence rather than return oninvestment, and are redesigning workflows that are growth-led and match talent to value.
Below are some of the bold accelerators leaders should consider for the upcoming year and beyond:
- The curiosity to learn: evolving as the world evolves.
- The courage to unlearn: the word ‘unworlding’ or ‘reworlding’ means letting go of outdated ways of thinking and opening up to new possibilities.
- The clarity to focus: building cultures where talent is empowered to solve the biggest problems.
- The conviction to decide: deciding future trends and their implications on strategy.
A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points
Albert Einstein wrote: ‘You can‘t use an old map to explore a new world’. A change in perspective is worth at least 80 IQ points in a world where the best way of staying relevant is by accepting two fundamental truths:
- Competitive advantage is temporary and eroding faster.
- You are either a disruptor or one of the disrupted.
The challenge is that there’s a huge knowing-to-doing gap in business, with 84% of leaders reporting culture, talent and leadership inertia and 23% of employees saying they have mentally quit the job but haven’t resigned yet. For more analysis on these inflection points take a look at BrightLine Initiative’s important work on leading and embracing perpetual transformation. Their studies show that nearly $1 billion a year is wasted on failed transformation efforts, two-thirds of which fail to achieve their goals.
For employees, the future of work should mean more choice, opportunity and meaning and will shift from traditional ‘I’-shaped careers moving up company career ladders to ‘Pi’-shaped and ‘X’-shaped careers (stretch, breadth and depth) that look more like career climbing walls.
Reimagination is the new execution
Everything starts as an act of imagination, but to sustain vitality for the long-term leaders must harness reimagination. Reimagination is the human force that can create a new reality.
I believe that leadership is the most powerful platform for unlocking value and human potential (profit maximisation AND meaning maximisation), yet only a small pool of organisations are leading the way with bold action – firms such as the pioneering biotech company Moderna, Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) whose transformation story has been honoured for the fourth year in a row with ‘the world’s best bank’ by Euromoney, or Microsoft for launching a collective growth mindset to power management excellence around a few core principles.
What these companies understand is that the path to reimagination requires making bold moves across three imperatives:
- Who we are: Strengthen purpose, culture as an accelerant, and the value of values.
- How we decide: Speed and simplicity, zero distance to the customer, and closed-to-open strategy.
- How we grow: Hyperscale, new growth engines and sustainable leadership for the long-term.
Fortune favours the bold
If there’s a final call to action that I offer every leader: make 2022 the year that you do something radical, because leadership is never finished. Culture is never finished. Learning is never finished. Make it the year that you turn uncertainty into action, fight complexity with simplicity, adopt new agile ways of leading and working, and say goodbye to the status quo.
Drucker was right. Turbulence is not the biggest threat. Make 2022 the year to confront it with fortified courage of heart and boldness of ideas.
About the Author:
Terence Mauri is founder of Hack Future Lab, Adjunct Professor at IE Business School and a specialist in leadership and change. His new book The 3D Leader: Take your leadership to the next dimension is out now