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.
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.
In times of uncertainty, we need to turn to the values and beliefs that define us. In a social environment, whether a family or a business or a community, the same is true.
Every place creates such a culture. It is often ignored by its leadership. It is an unacknowledged belief that leaders create culture. They can, but they can only do so by destroying the culture that is already there. Maybe it is necessary if that ‘persistent, residual culture’ has been corrupted and made toxic by the loss of belief in the company’s values. I’ve seen that. It is a very difficult thing to change. It is far better to go join the culture that is there and elevate it through leadership capacity building.
One of the ways that we elevate this persistent, residual culture is by creating a story that we tell ourselves. It is a story that reminds who we are. It is a story that helps us to say Yes to the good things and No to the wrong ones.
We are living in a time of uncertainty. How do we find ways to counter the experience of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt? We need a story that affirms who we are and reminds us of what matters to us. Our story is there for us when uncertainty seems to be at its most intense and alienating.
I’m offering a webinar to address the fear and anxiety that has grown exponentially because of the coronavirus crisis.