We can be heroes

“It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Cfr. Geert Noels – Econoshock: shift to the east, demographics, end of fossil fuels, IT & technology, the new capitalism, green economy.
Cfr. Peter Hinssen The NewNormal: we’re entering the digital world and it affects our ‘limits’. Attention span goes to zero (twitter). We have endless possibilities to seek information (Wikipedia). Lots of tools and services are free (facebook). Patience is ‘out’ (now or not). Privacy is lost; transparency is the norm (wiki & open leaks). Changes are constant. Execution speed dominates quality.

“We’re all shook up”

The massive transformation in this newnormal world affects everybody. On a personal level we’re looking for new ways of working, living, parenting, educating, interacting (“boundaryless generation”). Organisations are looking how to recruit & organize globally. How to manage the boundaries of the organisation? How to build identity & reshape continuously? How to lead for short-term results and sustainable value? How trust/let go & control? How to think global and love local? How to act fast & sustainable? Church, politics, unions, countries, regions question their identity.

“We’re only human”

We have our limits. Psychologists, sociologists, biologists, organisation experts show us how we have our limits to deal with complexity and to relate personally. The pressures of speed, complexity & connectivity make people deconnect. They choose for the short-term or for their self-interest and make abstraction of the rest. Or they keep repeating themselves. That’s how the gap between politicians and citizens, top management and employees, bishops & believers grows.

“We can be heroes.”

The call for leadership is enormous. This is not surprising. Leadership is ‘transcending oneself’, ‘seeing further’, ‘showing the way’, ‘giving answers’. That was so in the past. And it always will be. The massive shortage in leadership proves only that the ‘older’ leadership approach is failing.

Leadership used to be more formal: hierarchical (‘the chef knows best”), command and control (‘management systems’), heroism (‘the leader is the hero’).
– Prototypes: the pope, George Bush, Vladimir Poetin, Jack Welch.
– Closer to us: Jean-Luc Dehaene, Jean-Pierre Hansen, Guy Léonard.  Succesful leaders, but less in the 2.0 world.
– Derailed: Berlusconi, Ben Ali, Enrons smartest guys in the room.

This leadership is still very dominant and has its value in less complex environments, e.g. in local and smaller organisations.

Leadership 2.0

Prerequisite, more than ever is management & technical ability to deal with the larger complexity. Leadership is contextual and demands depth & experience. Organisations who think to solve complex problems by importing “stars” or “white rabits” from other contexts dream.

On top of that is newnormal leadership more personal. The Facebook kids follow and respect natural authority. Personal power is based on focus, awareness and transparency. A leader who looks for answers in control, rules, systems risks to disconnect his or her employees. “False/two faces” will be revealed and undermines credibility. Newnormal leadership is secondly about being ‘open source’ minded. The capacity to interact and relate 360° creates opportunities and insight. Communication and networks are central in current success.

Third element: entrepreneurship. Leaders don’t accept the things as they are. They push for innovation. They find creative solutions. They take initiatives. Finally leaders take into account the larger whole. “Self interest” & “collective interest” need to go together. This is not a question of social responsibility. It’s a matter of survival. Stand alone is no sustainable option. Companies that don’t fit in the larger context risk to lose relevance.

Leadership theory recognizes these new dimensions since the eigthies: transformational (Burns, Bass e.a.), authentic  (Avolio e.a.), shared leadership (Conger e.a.), servant (Greenleaf e.a.) leadership. These theories go further than the situational behaviour of the leader and his “get the job done” factor. They put self and moral consciousness central. They care about the whole person in his or her context and have the capacity to connect, convince and develop. The development of this kind of leadership goes further than the average management training and is an important challenge for the educational system and all organisations.

Is your leadership thinking and doing newnormal?

Any Comment?


About Koen Marichal

Director Future Leadership Initiative at Antwerp Management School
This entry was posted in Comments & events, English and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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