The future of leadership is not its past. Complexity and dynamism are forcing our world to change. Many organizations and nations will not survive.
Two of my African colleagues have commented to me recently about their optimism for the future of their continent. One told me that 70% of Africa is now under 30 years of age. The other said that by the year 2050, there will be one billion people in Africa under the age of 25.
As I try to make sense of what these numbers mean for the future of Africa and the world, I realized that it points to a dramatic change in how we develop and deploy leaders. Not only how we develop them, but the kind of organizations that they will be willing to work in. This is a discussion that we need to have.
I have been fascinated with people who start things. It is embedded in my definition of leadership.
“All leadership begins with personal initiative …’
However, to start something is to recognize that there is a reason for doing so. Some things we start are experimental projects to see what works. Others are business ideas that we think will gather loyal customers. Then there are those people who love to solve problems.
To solve a problem is to respond to a creative drive that resides in each of us. Starting something new is the same impetus. We make a decision to resolve a question that we have in our mind.
Behind every mask is a human being longing to be set free. We dream of returning to a normal life. We long for what we once had that now seems to be gone. Behind the most hopeful and optimistic dream is its counter-story, the one that captures the darker experience of longing.
Our dreams are usually about what we want to add to our lives. We dream of the ideal mate, that special vacation spot or new position at work. Our longings reveal instead what is missing or what we have lost. We long for peace or freedom, a return to some past state of comfort or security. These longings tell us more about ourselves than our dreams because they are the products of our experience in life. Our dreams reveal what our imagination hopes and believes is possible in the future.
My conversations with people over the past decade have been about the longings of people. I would say very few people during this time have talked about what they hope to achieve in the future. Most of these moments of engagement are about what is missing and about how to return to a time that they remember with joy and comfort.
In this post, I decided to look at the stories of longing that emerge from literature and the films that brought those stories to a wider audience. I believe these stories point towards an understanding of who we are as individuals and as shared citizens of planet Earth. Mostly I hope these stories and the various videos that I am using to illustrate what I see will provide each of you a moment of contemplation for understanding what you long for and how you might take personal initiative to bring wholeness and resolution to your own sense of longing.
Simon Sinek speaks about how homeless people ask for money. He convinces a woman to change her message, and she makes more in two hours than she does in a whole day. Good move on Simon’s part. Then she leaves. She met her daily quota.
The question that this raised for me is whether Sinek was actually successful in his advice to the woman.
Sinek wants us to focus on the giver and his or her motivation. I am glad he does. He wants us to think about why we should give to people in need, or affirm workers in the workplace.
Now, as good as this video is, Sinek needs to look more deeply at what is required to change the social and organizational environments that we all inhabit. If you want Mark Laita’s videos, you see the effects of broken environments on people. From my perspective, the range of crises that we are experiencing globally is the product of broken environments, whether social or organizational.