Essential Tools to Navigate the Unknown
Let’s say you’re in the mood to enlighten yourself on leadership. You could tune into the political scene in the United States. Or you could partake via YouTube in some panels at the World Economic Forum.
Humans fear the unknown and politicians on both sides of the aisle use this fear to their advantage.
So, where can valuable leadership lessons be learned?
Rather than watching the news or reading news publications or sites, I decided to spend some time this weekend learning from leaders around the world. I binge watched YouTube videos of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos and I found them not only fascinating, but enlightening. Almost all the videos were of panel discussions around a specific topic, moderated by an experienced journalist.
You might say that this is similar to the presidential debates, also moderated by journalists. But there was a distinct difference, which I experienced as a breath of fresh air. The moderators at the WEF in Davos were facilitating a conversation rather than a debate. The emphasis wasn’t on convincing others that candidate A is more right or better for the job than candidate B. The focus was on gaining diverse perspectives from professors who are subject matter experts in a specific field, from CEOs that guide their companies on a path to sustainable profitability and from country leaders who aren’t on the campaign trail, but who are there to solve problems. As a matter of fact, everyone spoke from a place of identifying problems and finding solutions by exchanging ideas and thoughts.
If you were in Davos, I encourage you to leave a comment and provide your perspective. If you were not able to travel to Davos to participate in person, I would recommend you take a deep dive into the collective wisdom of today’s world leaders. It’s easy to read a synopsis about
certain panel discussions; you will find summaries in various news outlets. But give yourself the chance to actually watch and listen to some of the panels. The conversations will leave you with new thoughts, new ideas of how to tackle things, and new possibilities to pursue. I promise, my thinking changed listening to the conversations. They raised my level of consciousness. And I bet they will do the same for you.
If you feel you don’t have the time to take a deep look, I have identified top leadership lessons from the WEF that can serve as conversation starters. I also give the link to the actual sessions that sparked my thoughts for each topic. Learn about what is top of mind and what questions you need to ask yourself to be ahead of the curve.
How to Navigate The Unknown
1) None of the leaders (Politicians, Academics, C-Levels) have the answers facing humankind.
How can we navigate the unknown? Together we can learn from each other and collectively we can come up with processes moving forward and arrive at solutions. This session about the Future of Europe eloquently pointed to the need to work together. No one wants to let go of the Schengen Agreement. And the Dublin Agreement needs revisiting given the current refugee crisis. There is no point in judging decisions that were made so far. All we can do is take inventory of the situation and collectively find a way forward. What are you seeking an answer to?
2) Technology will drive development in every aspect of our lives for the foreseeable future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems a phrase out of a sci-fi movie, but we better wrap our minds around what AI means for us, our companies, and our communities. Much has been communicated about self-driving cars, and they exist and they work, even today. Within five years (+/-) they will be on our streets and there can be many benefits. Imagine you might not have to take time off work to drive your mother to the doctor or to the airport; instead she will call Uber, which sends a self-driving car. Wouldn’t it be great if we had less accidents from older people who are challenged by lack of hearing or reduced eyesight? Many who otherwise would be destined for isolation will be able to get around. And yes, you, the leader will be able to benefit from this in the not too distant future. Plus, computers will behave like humans. What action can you take to become more technologically literate?
3) The private sector is surprised by the speed of progress. Governments are slow to respond with appropriate policies.
It’s time to stop complaining and identify what vision we have for our future. What do we want life and work to look like moving forward? Inequality, minimum wage, retirement, and loss of the middle class are all topics we need to find answers to if we as a human race want to succeed. And yet in the political debates all we hear is who is to be blamed for what. Listen to this enlightened conversation. What can you do or learn to stay ahead of the curve?
4) We need to rethink governance to prevent future shocks to the system.
The time has come to focus on long-term sustainable growth, not short-term profits. The amount of ambiguity in geopolitics, the financial markets, technological advances and shifts in the labor force will require leadership that is well-versed in co-creating results with whatever challenges come their way. No MBA or leadership development program alone will be able to prepare the future leader. The trusted advisors on the board and well-rounded experts in technology, the industry and human resources will be required. Who is on your team of advisors?
5) Do we need to shift the conversation from minimum wage to basic wage? And what does that mean for you, the leader?
Much has been discussed about rising inequality. And much of the focus is on adding jobs every month. Unemployment rates are followed regularly. But what if due to artificial intelligence much of the routine work will be done by machines (and it will), resulting in middle class jobs including doctors and lawyers falling by the wayside? How can people contribute meaningfully, especially considering that life expectancy is rising at the same time? Playing golf every day, as enticing as it might be, is probably not the answer. What do you derive meaning from?
6) We will see life expectancy rise to 150 years in our lifetime.
My dad’s goal is to make it to 100 years of age. He is 87 now and I had to burst his bubble. I told him the new normal will be 150 years. And it is not out of our reach. Listen to this conversation about what to consider to, a) have this long life expectancy and, b) understand its potential consequences on how we live today. What do you need to shift in order to extend your life expectancy?
7) Platforms are essential in the digital economy.
Uber and Airbnb are household names. So are YouTube and Cisco, which are using platforms
as the business model for the digital economy. Learn more about the platform economy and how it will impact all of us moving forward. What platforms are you using at work or in your private life? Would a platform business model work for you/your business?
If you have read this far it’s time to take action by:
1) Watching one of the videos (Each is about 60 minutes long).
2) Answering the questions (Take the time to write down some of your thoughts rather than making this a mental exercise. Commit your leadership lessons to paper and see where the thoughts will take you).
And if you want to take this one step further, engage colleagues and friends in a conversation about what is moving you around these topics. This is an exercise in learning and reflecting and the most learning will come from the conversation that follows. Let me know what insights you are having in the comments section below.
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