We’ve begun the shift beyond the Information Age into an Age of Interdependence – a huge shift into a globalized, diverse world with greater and greater levels of complexity to address as leaders. In this new age we need skills and intelligence related to connectedness.
It becomes more apparent every day that our personal decisions impact not just our immediate sphere but our entire world. This requires a huge shift in leadership. We can no longer assume that the people we lead are going to be from our same culture. We can no longer assume that our purview involves creating value from a set of products or services. Leaders are expected to see the interwoven strands that make up the webs of our companies and their interaction with markets, consumers, and resources. Leaders are expected to help create a Future Fit® world that is environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive.
Organizations are requiring new and different skills and talents in their leaders. Leaders need to create and adapt to new levels of complexity. We who lead are now co-ordinators of complex systems made up of people, technology, economics, communications, communities and regulations. We need to be flexible and adaptable, to listen carefully to stakeholder needs and demands, and to respond decisively.
We need to be innovative, thoughtful, strategic, and influential. We need to set the vision and strategy for our companies and define plans of action that can shift and adapt to new scenarios.
Leaders may not even be at the top of an organization any more. In less hierarchical workplaces, leadership is part of many employees’ daily lives. We set visions for our teams at every level of the company. We inspire others each day. We make strategic decisions and are empowered to make changes and embrace opportunities as they arise. Leadership is no longer just for CEOs.
Being smarter in today’s world involves a paradox: to become smarter, you have to admit what you don’t know. Asking questions and tolerating ambiguity are more important than knowing more and more. The more we develop our flexibility and ability to inquire and make connections, the better prepared we are to deal with an ever-more-complex global business environment.
Today’s smart leaders know that they cannot be the experts in everything—there is simply too much to know. And sometimes an overemphasis on expertise can get in the way of inspired and enduring, leadership.
When you lose your need to be the expert, you gain something magnificent and deceptively simple: curiosity. Our natural state as human beings is to be curious about the world around us. Think of young children, who constantly ask questions like “Why is the sky blue?” and “Where did Fluffy go when he died?” When we ask more questions, as adults or children, we gather more information, we see things from new perspectives, and we clarify our beliefs and attitudes. Curiosity helps us learn. It makes us smarter.
The more we develop our flexibility and ability to inquire and make connections, the better prepared we are to deal with an ever-more complex global business environment. The more prepared we are to create a Future Fit® world.
Excerpt from Smarter, Faster, Better by Karlin Sloan and Lindsay Pollak