The future doesn’t arrive for everyone all at the same time. There are pioneer leaders already beyond the Badlands and on their journey to the future in 2025. Here are some of their insights and lessons from their trek thus far:
Expect To Experience Fear and a Sense of Personal Inadequacy. Once useful habits and intuition no longer apply in this new landscape. This means you have to have the courage to change on deep, personal levels, and exposing vulnerability is a tremendous asset in doing so. You must use the alchemy of the experience to create, define, and redefine your character. More than at any other time, your leadership depends on self-motivation and personal choice.
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Navigating Out Of The Badlands
In this keynote, Mary provides the strategies, insights and leadership principles to scan, scout, and steer successfully to the future.
Your Identity Will Morph. The old reference points of leadership and identity are gone. We know from the lessons of historical cycles of innovation that the experience of this journey will lead to the emergence of a new identity. You will be challenged to represent yourself in a new context in which most of your local and global reference points are being dislocated by short-term relationships and new competitors. The sense of self evolves as the future unfolds and the context of life changes.
Don’t Get Lost in Familiar Territory. As a successful leader, you have “competency addictions,” the mindless, automatic repetition of legacy mindsets and behaviors that you resort to, particularly when you experience sudden pressures from new technologies, new competitors, or changes in customer preferences. Rather than feel threatened and triggered to fall back on the old ways, use the opportunity to innovate. These old ways are only comforting at first and will soon put you in a dangerous place.
Avoid Ugly Surprises. Only those leaders who don’t anticipate the future will be surprised by it. Having an understanding of the big picture and good peripheral vision are not optional. What are the threats, real or imagined, lurking ahead for you? What are the risks that most concern you? Hold sessions with heretics and trusted colleagues, and practice resolving the events they imagine before you encounter them in the rough landscape ahead. If you scan and scout the horizon, you should be able to steer successfully through it.
Simplify Complexity. After exiting the Badlands, the foothills to the future is a complex environment that will prove fatal to simplistic thinkers and those seduced by glib slogans. The trick is to be able to manage complexity, break it down into its component parts, and communicate direction and action steps in clear, simple terms.
Avoid The Black Hole of Ignorance. Getting blindsided because you deny the existence of what you don’t know is a pitfall throughout the journey. Seek Collisions at all times to fill in this black hole of ignorance.
Seed an Epidemic of Innovation. Top leadership must respond to the Radical Innovation imperative of this environment. Power will ultimately come from mastering disruptive innovations in the marketplace. At the very least, try to be a new category creator. Leaders must ensure that a climate of systemic innovation develops, and they must invest in those innovations most likely to create new wealth that will sustain the organization in the future.
Create Meaning. The challenging changes underway in our anemic economy and the failure of our social institutions throughout our global society are deeply disturbing. They challenge our assumptions about who we are, what we do, and the value we offer, which can be profoundly disorienting. Acting with Integrity demands that leaders create meaning continuously and be vigilant about ethics. Meaning lives in the hearts and minds of people, not in memos or strategic plans or organizational charts. In times of uncertainty, people need to know the higher purpose of an organization, not just its mission statement. People need unifying themes in order to build trust that can set them on common ground and provide new coherence and connectedness.
Although you need to be nimble, fostering rapid decisions and effective execution, relax — pace your progress. This is a long journey, one that will last a full decade or more. It will take time to build up the Leadership Readiness capabilities you need in order to transform yourself and your organization. There is no silver bullet, no rescuing miracle; escape is merely an illusion.