When a book or essay appears in print, it is never all that could be said. It is a distillation and essence of the whole topic.
For my short book, Where Did Trust Go?, the instigating moment was a question from a Nairobi businessman. He asked me following a presentation to his group last February,
“What are we to do about corruption in government and business?”
At that point in time, I did not have an answer. I do now. It is found in this little book.
Let me describe what I see that led me to write. Let’s look at this through the lens of the Circle of Impact in terms of three problems.
None of us see below the surface of things. We fool ourselves into believing that we understand what is going on, when we only see the shiny surface of things. As Paul Simon wrote in his great 1960s pop hit, The Boxer, “People believe what they want to believe, and disregard this rest.” If seeing is believing, then we only believe in the appearance of what we see, not the substance of it.
The structure of the modern organization is collapsing. It is crumbling from within. The structure is no longer adequate for the fast-paced world of change that we live in. In many respects, its persistence is an act of denying reality.
Professor Joseph Tainter describes collapse as “a rapid simplification of an overly complex system.” It happens because societies become good at solving problems. As a result, greater complexity occurs. What does this complexity look like?
In September 2018, after Circle of Impact was published, I hit the road to promote sales of the book. I spent the next year talking to people standing in bookstores, sitting at bars, in laundromats, parking lots, and hotel lobbies. These conversations went something like this.
“Oh, so you are the author of this book?”
“What’s your book about?”
“It is a book for people and organizations that are in transition.”
Then they would give me a surprised look and say, “Oh. … Well. … That describes me.”
Then a conversation would happen where they would tell me a story about who they are, their life experience, and why they felt they were in transition.
I found that people first feel that they are in transition. But they lack a way to talk about it. This feeling rises deep from within themselves. This is especially true if they have either worked in an environment described above where they are simply hired to perform specific tasks or have been out of the workforce for a while taking care of family needs, whether children or elderly parents.
Of all the ways that I could describe the book, speaking about transition resonated most significantly with people. This isn’t just personal. It is also something happening to our society, our communities, and every organization within it. It is a global reality felt at the most intimate level of our lives. It is also clear that some people are better suited or prepared to make transitions in their lives, while for others it is a very tough, hard experience.
We all live in a time of transition. It is different than just recognizing that change is happening. It is seeing that transition is a process along a path of change. The more we embrace the transitions that we are in, the more we can thrive in a time of uncertainty. The Transition Chronicles is an ongoing series of short books (5,000 to 12,000 words in length) that focus on various aspects of the transitions that we experience through the three dimensions of the Circle of Impact.
We live in a world that is in transition.
One of the most significant transitions that we are experiencing is in the nature of leadership.
It used to be that leadership was reserved for the person who was the head of an organization. We knew who the leader was because he or she had a title that defined their role as the leader of the organization.
Since there are only a few leaders, it means everyone else is a follower.
The Relationship between Leaders and Followers is Changing
The relation between leading and following is in transition.
It once was true that great leaders had great followers. However, over time, as the world has changed, we are far more aware of what our leaders are really like. The issue for the follower is ‘Do I trust the leader?’. For leaders, the question is ‘Do I respect the follower?’
Failure is a way of life for many people. They try hard to succeed. But for some reason they never do.
Is their problem one of execution, of planning, of expectation, of personality or timing? Or is it a combination of all of them?
I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. In addition to the above, other factors play into what constitutes success.
There is the question of focus, of application of talent to real needs, of competence in performance, of commitment for preparation and for follow-through. Then there is the question of self-confidence.
See, all those conditions factor into success and failure. Yet, all those could be at the top-of-their-game, and still, success eludes us. The question is whether our conception of success is sufficient for the world we live in. I am increasingly convinced that we must look more deeply into these factors in order to define impact as the measure of success.