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Disruption – Leadership is Under The Microscope

Simon Clark takes a closer look at the challenges in the business landscape on the other side of lock down and how we can be better equipped to lead in the decare of disruption.

We have spoken to CEO’s, owners and Private Equity organisations who are all stepping forward into the decade of disruption – the next challenge of the decade is the business landscape on the other side of “lock down”. In many cases they are realising that the leadership and executive teams they now need are slightly different. They are not teams who inch forward with marginal gains. They now need to operate and thrive with disruption.

The measurements of talent and high performance in this new decade are being re-calibrated. Now talent is agile, will quickly re-define and gather resources in new directions harnessing collective intelligence.

There are practical issues with operating in the current business climate and we can all see the adjustments that companies in our own echo system are working. How will the further adapt for the next year and the one after that. How will the business that are closed quickly get back up and running while observing restrictions? How will they manage on less money and less profit?

Dr Paige Williams is an authority on Becoming AntiFragile Her book, “Learning to thrive through disruption, challenge and change” focuses on exactly this leadership change.

Paige recently wrote “COVID-19 has really put leaders under the microscope, and it’s been fascinating to watch. At the global level we’ve seen how different nations have responded to the unfolding crisis and the critical role that leaders play in winning support – or not – for the chosen response strategy. At a more local level, many of my clients have seen their leaders struggle with the complexity of the challenge that COVID delivered coupled with very real- and critical-time pressure. Juggling the need to move people, get technology up and running or in some cases, make business critical decisions about operations and retrenchment, delivered a perfect storm of disruption, challenge and change. It’s the kind of scenario I might dream up for case studies and learning simulations in my development programs!

What it has done is expose the fragility in the models that underpin modern leadership practice and it provides a great opportunity for us to re-set our expectations and emerge better than we were before. Whilst we may not want to acknowledge it, the world is becoming more complex, uncertain, and open to disruption. The level, pace, and complexity of change is increasing, and technology is advancing in ways most of us can only imagine. Scarcity of resources, increasing nationalism, and a growing divide between rich and poor have created incredibly volatile environments throughout history, and this volatility is only increasing with the impact of COVID-19. While the global pandemic and its economic fallout could not have been predicted, truly great leaders who have any chance of surviving this, or any other crisis, must learn how to thrive through such events, and not just sit tight, hoping for the best and waiting for the storm to pass. There will always be another storm around the corner.Leaders need to equip themselves, and their teams with the tools needed to withstand and thrive – not just survive – the world we have created… they need to become AntiFragile.

When something is AntiFragile it has more upside to downside in disruption and uncertainty. It improves through uncertainty, shock and disorder. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t challenge involved, but it gets better through the experiences of uncertainty, challenge and change that come with disruption.

What does this mean for leaders?

Becoming AntiFragile means that we let go of the need for and illusion of control that are embedded in current models of leadership. Looking to the past doesn’t mean we can predict the future, let alone control it, and so as AntiFragile leaders we change our expectations. We accept the inevitability of change and disruption and use learning, agility and optionality as the basis for our leadership. We understand that one person and one perspective is never going to be enough in the complex inter-dependent world we have created, and so we collaborate and seek out multiple views and harness collective intelligence to reach optimal solutions. And then we hold them lightly. We don’t get attached to them through ego or power-play; we adopt a ‘test and learn’ mentality and are willing to pivot and adapt as needed.

This was already on track to be the Decade of Disruption. COVID-19 has just accelerated that further, and in doing so laid bare our outdated and broken systems of leadership. The cracks were already showing and I’m excited to see how we can enable a new generation of AntiFragile leaders who are aware, able and equipped to lead us in the Decade of Disruption.


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