As our challenges become more complex across the political, social, ecological, business and economic landscape, so must our solutions. We’re challenged to create new forms of value, and more often - to innovate!
We’ve moved from the Agricultural Age, to the Industrial Age, through an Information Age and now increasingly into what Daniel Pink has coined as the 'Conceptual Age' - the new era of work in which what will set us apart is not just our technical abilities, it's our ability to exercise the right hemisphere of our brains to connect, to be empathic, to tell story, to play and to find (and make) meaning.
This doesn't mean your technical ability doesn't matter, of course it does, what this means is that to be stellar performers in this emerging economy we need to hone our craft and also our ability to lean into our vulnerability as leaders.
Now here's the real challenge - we'll need to unlearn some of our traditional methods and relearn methods that will support us as leaders and organisations in the 21st century. In this era what we unlearn is almost as important as what we learn. A sticky and uncomfortable process, but let's just say maybe slightly less sticky than becoming irrelevant or left behind.
Einstein did famously say, “we can't solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” so our work is here ahead of us.
The traditional 'Taylorist' style of scientific management and leadership born on the factory floor is evolving in a world of coworking, diversity, inclusion, innovation and disruption. These new environments require a new range of leadership skills and interpersonal agility to navigate successfully and thrive within. We need to consider a more collaborative and less binary approach to leadership.
When speaking to groups of organisational leaders and their staff (whom I also consider 'leaders'), I often ask the question “how can you tell an incredible leader apart from a good leader?"
"They raise their colleagues' self-esteem, empower them to do their best work individually and together, and to reach their full potential." Consensus achieved, what could there be to argue about that?
In the emerging economy, this definition is becoming increasingly important. Our people and the space we create for them to think openly, create freely and connected deeply will be what fuels our growth. If we are to facilitation spaces for our teams and collaborators to think creatively,
share their stories, make meaning and develop meaningful relationships, we need to be able to facilitate a space that is psychologically safe, courageous and connected. We need to create a sense of a Modern Tribe within our organisations and communities.
So what might leadership look like in the 21st century, with this in mind? I’ll give you a clue - it has to do with The Art of Facilitation and The Art of Storytelling.