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.
Have you ever prepared to cross a street, and there at the curb is a big, deep puddle? You don’t want to step in it. So, you look for a way around, or you try to decide if you can jump across it. I believe this is where many of us are right now. We are stuck trying to figure out a way around the complexity of a global coronavirus pandemic, the swings of political ideology upon our lives, and what the future holds for you, your family, your business, the organizations you contribute to, and your community as your home.
Four years ago as I was preparing to publish Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change, I put together a set of five guiding principles that I felt were a simple summary of the book. Over the past several months, I realized that the time for a refresh of the principles was needed. Several new things had begun, and I needed to reflect it a revised Guiding Principles of the Circle of Impact.
CIRCLE OF IMPACT FIVE GUIDING PRINCIPLES
1. ALL Leadership Begins with Personal Initiative to Create Impact.
2. We are ALL in Transition. Every one of us. ALL the time.
3. Impact is the Change that Makes a Difference that Matters.
4. Impact Expands through Networks of Relationships.
5. Start Small. Act Locally. Share Globally. Take the Long View.
When did self-awareness become an obstacle in our lives?
After a quarter-century of consulting with organizations and coaching their leaders, I realized that it was the self-awareness of people that was a prime hurdle to fulfilling potential, creating impact, and leading people.
Let’s look into this.
WHAT IS SELF-AWARENESS?
Self-awareness is knowing who you are within the context of your life situations.
There are two sides to self-awareness. One is knowing who we are as persons. The other is understanding the situations that we are in. Self-awareness and situational awareness are indelibly intertwined.
Self-awareness is being aware of who we are, who we can become, what our potential is, and, maybe more importantly, who we are not. This is particularly true in a time where social media has the power to mold people into persons that their friends and family do not recognize.
When I first came up with the idea of the Circle of Impact two decades ago, I was responding to the patterns of behavior that I saw in people and organizations. In a real sense, their problems originated in the way they thought, the way they related to people, and the way they organized their world.
Out of that perception came the notion that there are three aspects of our lives – ideas, relationships, and structure – that represent the connective tissue of who we are and the world that surrounds us. I called them, The Three Dimensions of Leadership. At that time, I did not actually know how they were connected. I just knew they were. I could see it. It took many years to fully understand how fundamental a perspective I had discovered.
Nothing is inevitable, except change. Nothing happens in a uniform or complete manner. Every change creates the conditions for its opposite. This is where opportunities abound.
Entrepreneurs understand this and then when they reach a point of establishment, promptly forget about it. Entrepreneurs want to decentralize power in order to create new opportunities. Then they want to centralize power believing that absolute control produces efficiencies that secure the future of the business. Is entrepreneurial ‘creative destruction’ only a starting point? Or, can a business instill the practice of entrepreneurial opportunity-seeking throughout the organization? I believe that it can.
This is one facet of the tension between centralization and decentralization in society. It has grown in intensity as technologies emerged that support personal endeavors and the control of people through surveillance technologies. The context of this global dynamic I call the Two Global Forces. This post consists of selections from my book, Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative to Ignite Change, on this phenomenon in our world today. I have more to say about this at the end.