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2023: Leadership for An Upside-Down World

Globalization 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution arrived with little fanfare. For many, it was a nonevent. But nothing could be further from the truth. The shift from simple digitization of the previous era to new methods that combine multiple technologies at once, is rapidly changing the world. Robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genetic editing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other cyber technologies are the domains in which we live today. Cultivating positive change in a chaotic world of crisis after crisis calls for a new narrative on leadership, one that addresses an increasingly unpredictable and turbulent environment. Leaders must address the unexpected, the tumultuous, and the complex, somehow bringing order while encouraging innovation and creative problem solving. What’s missing in our “leaders” and what is most needed?

Although we often use business as a source of examples when speaking of leadership, political, social, and economic institutions are equally affected by the new world order. Many of the world’s current systems are broken or ineffective. Looking at the various governing bodies of some of the most powerful countries around the globe, we see how their leaders are ill equipped to manage the “wicked” problems that are crucial to our survival. The urgency to find a better way has never been greater. War, climate change, disease, poverty, social inequality, and natural disasters are but a few of the serious challenges we face.

Have we made the concept of leadership about leaders and not about others, those who do the heavy lifting of implementing a vision? We’ve elevated leadership to some special, lofty place. What if we make it about people again, coming together for a common purpose? Leaders should knock down barriers, create an environment of trust, allow failure and learning, share power, create a place where people feel valued, turn people loose, and then get out of their way. Transformational leadership, probably the most widely accepted leadership theory today, moved us in the right direction. A more organic and less prescriptive approach in defining leaders may be a better fit for a chaotic world.


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