In a Chaos. There Is Creativity. Welcome to VUCA MAX… Part 1

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future is titled Expecting the Unexpected:  VUCA in Action at Red Roof.  The interview is with George Limbert, President of Red Roof and aired on November 8, 2022.  

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

This week’s article is written by Chris Nolan, a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author.  It is part one of a two part series.

IN A CHAOS. THERE IS CREATIVITY. WELCOME TO VUCA MAX… PART 1.

OBLIQUE STRATEGIES

Brian Eno is a brilliant musician and producer of some of the most seminal rock ‘n’ roll albums of the last 40 years, He worked with David Bowie on “Heroes,”. U2 on “Achtung Baby” and “The Joshua Tree,” His work spans rock genres from DEVO to Coldplay.

His secret to catalyzing the greatest musicians to expand themselves and reach creative heights is “creating chaos”.

He is also famous for his Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas” that shake up the creative process.

It’s a deck of cards invented by Eno and painter Peter Schmidt. Each card offers a unique, disruptive strategy: “Honor thy error as a hidden intention.”, “Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them.”, “Make a sudden, destructive, unpredictable action. Incorporate.” Even, “Change instrument roles.”  That’s right –– drummer on the piano.

Eno found the more chaos the greater the creative breakthrough and the greater the masterpiece.

 

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP

A McKinsey & Company survey of executives found that more than 70 percent anticipate innovation will be a top driver of growth for their companies.

Yes, McKinsey also found that most of these executives have been disappointed by their company’s innovation efforts.

Now granted creativity is an enigma, and innovation can be a dilemma, so maybe chaos can tell us more about how to get under the hood of creativity.

As a film director for over 25 years and a former Creative Director at the some of world’s most prestigious advertising agencies, I’ve been at the helm of a wide array of diverse extremely talented, creative teams.

Yes, some people are just innately innovative, but I agree Edward de Bono and Steven Kotler that creativity and innovation–– the ability to connect different ideas in a novel way –– is also a learnable skill.

But it is more oblique than obvious.

De bono, regarded by many as the world’s leading authority in the field of creative thinking, also tells is that problem solving is an indirect process involving ideas that may not be attainable using step-by-step logic.  This mean embracing chaos, disruption and the unknown in the creative process.  de Bono called this “Lateral Thinking”. It deliberately forgoes obvious approaches in favor of oblique, outside the box ones.

Lateral Thinking also calls for leaders to give people the permission to contribute and the freedom to explore alternatives to problems without criticism.

 

AWKWARD STRANGERS

Disney is one of the most innovative companies in the world. And when I worked with Disney on innovative initiatives, we’d always included people outside the project team as part of the innovation group, even some contrarians, disruptors or people at different levels.

In his Ted Talk. Tim Hartford talks about the need to disrupt in the creative process and role of what he calls “the awkward strangers”. Eno deck of cards plays this role.

So, one of the ways to jumpstart robust ideation is diversity and different perspectives You want awkward strangers to disrupt the process.

Which is why. the world’s top business experts from Peter Drucker to Marshall Goldsmith tell leaders to flatten the pyramid and get more bottom-up ideation.

A more inclusive “leave no one behind” mindset that includes front line people.

it creates what we call Hero-Archies versus Hierarchies. And deliver Great Loyalty instead of Great Resignation by giving people more purpose and investment in the future.

After all, C-Suite does not stand for crystal ball. No leader can predict the future alone. To innovate for a future moving faster than we can think, we need all the help we can get,

 

ADVERSITY IMMERSION

Brian Eno made creative magic happen by busting comfort zones, flipping familiar habits and taking people to strange, unknown, chaotic places.

He immersed the rockers in adversity.

Now you may think that Adversity Immersion causes stress and stress thwarts creativity when in actuality –– it’s feeling out of control in a situation and not having creative choices causes stress. The key to avoiding stress is to accept that the creative process is chaotic, but you always have choices.

The stories of the greatest accomplishments always great conflict, obstacles and adversity, and they challenge us to make decisions.

In Star Wars, after the introduction of Old Ben Kenobi (the awkward strange), Obi Wan challenges Luke Skywalker to make a choice –– between the complacency of his dull planet and the call to help the intergalactic rebellion.

In innovation like stories, an unexpected inciting incident always disrupts the status quo and upends the familiar, leading to new challenges, problems and bursts of opportunity.

Understanding that chaos and adversity are essential catalysts for breakthrough innovative is important for leaders to understand as we enter the most disruptive era that humanity has ever experienced.

An era we call VUCA MAX.

 

WELCOME TO VUCA MAX

In the documentary IT’S VUCA: THE SECRET TO LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY, we set out to explain this critical inflection point in human history.

It’s a pivotal time when we literally face the possibility of two futures: A negative one with colossal consequences or a positive one with transformative opportunities. VUCA is also negative and positive.

The film features some of the world’s greatest VUCA experts: Generals, elite Navy SEALs, Delta Force commanders, Blue Angels, NY Times best-selling authors, neuroscience experts, leadership gurus, and world-renowned futurists.

VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It was coined by the military in 1987 to explain the uncertainty of the 20th century and is a very apt way of explaining the conditions and environment of the early part of the 21st Century, in which we were witnessing Moore’s Law – every 18 months the power of technology was doubling –– and transforming the world.

It’s why the smartphone in your pocket is now a million times faster, a million times cheaper, and a thousand times smaller than a supercomputer on the 1970s.

When we started filming IT’S VUCA in 2020, a phenomenon predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s head on engineering started to kick in –– creating Massive. Accelerating. Exponential change.

To give you an idea just how fast the future is moving:  In the next 10 years, we will see 100 years of change. In the next 80, we’ll see 20,000 years.

VUCA is now on steroids. It’s VUCA MAX.

As futurist Jane McGonigal at the Institute for the Future, the world’s leading futures organization, tell us: This is a time for both urgent optimism and urgent innovation.

 

CHAOTIC INNOVATION IS NOT CREATIVE

On the flip side, when leadership pursues innovation in a haphazard, piecemeal, one-off fashion it is detrimental to creative efficiency. It has no plan and distracts from innovative momentum.

As Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant said in their Harvard Business Review article, “IIt takes a systematic approach to build a systemic capability — whether that is Amazon’s logistics prowess or the near-flawless service you receive as a guest at a Four Seasons hotel. So, it is with innovation.”

Systematizing innovation means embracing chaotic principals, which beings a method to madness and the outcomes.

Companies cut their R&D and innovation budgets during the last great recession missed key opportunities. Companies that embraced VUCA and continued to invest in innovation 10xed their businesses and took a front seat in the post-recession economy.

Again, investing in innovation calls for leadership that thinks beyond genetic creativity and playful workspaces. It calls for a deep bench of innovators across your entire organization.

Yes, some people are innately more creative, but a surprising amount of people get more creative when they have intrinsic motivation.

When they think their ideas matter and they have permission to be creative. What’s most important is –– Purpose.  Purpose skyrockets innovation. It calls for strong leadership seeking transformative ideas with greater meaning for humanity and for the planet.

Stay tuned for part two of “In Chaos, there is Creativity”, we’ll explore “Messiness” and “Effective Serendipity”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, CHRIS NOLAN:

Chris Nolan is a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author. He brings 25 years of branding, writing, directing and production experience in both entertainment and marketing to his content production company, 90,000 Feet –– working for clients such Disney, Google and Toyota.

He recently directed and co-wrote with Mike Schindler, the documentary “It’s VUCA: The Secret to Living in the 21st Century”. Chris and Mike have followed up the film with a book and an extensive leadership and executive coaching program called VUCA MAX.

To preorder the book or for more information on the VUCA MAX program go to https://itsvuca.com or contact Chris at Chris@itsvuca.com.

 

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE, GEORGE LIMBERT:

George Limbert is the President of Red Roof, an award-winning leader in the lodging industry with over 670 properties in the United States, Brazil and Japan. George joined Red Roof in 2013 as the company’s in-house counsel. Recently, he led a financial and strategic transformation of the business and was appointed President in 2021. George guides an organization that serves millions of guests each year, delivering enhanced experiences and unmatched value. He is the cornerstone in driving long-term strategic planning, improved operational and financial performance, and greater value for Red Roof stakeholders, business partners and guests. George fosters collaboration in communicating brand values, driving business growth and profitability.

George is an Ohio native. He received a degree in business from The Ohio State University and earned his law degree at the University of Dayton. George is also an adjunct professor teaching Franchise Law at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, and a member of the Ohio Bar Association. In 2021 he was appointed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to the TourismOhio Advisory Board. He lives in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife and daughter.

 

RESOURCES:

Ready to measure your leadership skills? Complete your complimentary assessment through the Innovative Leadership Institute. Learn the 7 leadership skills required to succeed during disruption and innovation.

  1. Take the next step with this 30-minute course on Leading during Disruption
  2. Review our Comprehensive Leadership Development programs and find your perfect fit!

To-do list:

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

Understanding Employee Experience in Real-Time with Aware

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s article is written by Greg Moran, a C-level digital, strategy, and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled What Your Team REALLY Thinks…in Real Time! which aired on October 11, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

Current Challenge

Most companies have no way of understanding how topics, messaging, internal/external events are truly impacting our employees and culture. According to Gartner, 82% of employees agree it is important that their organization sees them as a person, not just an employee.  In order to illuminate this topic, ILI has asked me to provide an overview of Aware’s approach to addressing the challenge of listening and giving a voice to employees.

Why This Matters, Now.

Gartner recently stated that human-centered work design can increase employee performance by as much as 54%. The market is quickly shifting to leverage human analytics to inform practices like performance management, building engagement, enhancing culture and experience, and improving retention.

Current Gaps

Traditional engagement questionnaires and pulse surveys only provide point-in-time insight on specific questions or topics. Without additional solutions, companies will continue to fall short in their ability to understand employee experience in a fully comprehensive and real-time manner. In order to drive faster response and more proactive change, companies require new solutions to close these gaps:

The challenges with a survey-based approach:

  • No comprehensive understanding of what employees are currently talking about and how they talk about specific topics.
  • No ability to look at toxic or disgruntled behavior separately from sentiment (negative sentiment is not always a cause for concern in the enterprise).
  • Lack of data to inform an approach to employee experience
  • Inability to capture a silent majority or know if an issue is brewing before it turns into a larger distraction.

How Innovative Companies are Closing the Gap

Forward-thinking, global companies go beyond pulse surveys, performance reviews, and focus groups. They augment the information derived from traditional sources with a real-time, continuous understanding of employee voice and experience. These companies use technologies that derive authentic insights from conversations already happening naturally within platforms like Slack, Workplace from Meta, Teams, and others.  In the words of one of Aware’s customers “The ability to understand and listen to our partners, and look at sentiment differently, be clear on where we’ve missed something and where we need to lean back in has been incredibly important this last year.  Giving this glimpse into how [employees] are humanly responding to things … has been really supportive of a broader enterprise goal of ‘it’s not an us and them’ piece.’ This is a way we can help them see each other as people.”

The Aware Solution

Your company needs a system in place to understand real-time employee engagement, so you can authentically say, ‘We hear you’. Innovative companies who do this well are adopting platforms such as Aware, which offers best-in-class technology to understand and make sense of employee signals:

  • Derives continuous, authentic insights from conversations, without relying on surveys
  • Understands and treats sentiment and toxic behavior independently
  • Offers automated reporting and alerts that fit within your existing business review framework
  • Provides controls to align with existing data privacy and compliance frameworks
  • Does not require IT resources for implementation and can integrate within minutes

What’s in the Box?

Aware offers a robust platform that solves additional challenges you may face across your business, including eDiscovery, retention, legal holds and compliance monitoring. Aware is committed to providing leading security, compliance, and analytics for collaboration, no matter which tool you use to get work done, now or in the future.

Intelligent Data Fabric

Aware’s data fabric is built to capture unique collaboration characteristics. Securely “listening” to all posts, messages, and shared files, and preserve revision and deletion histories.

Data Retention and Destruction

Reduce the liability of litigation by systematically purging stored conversation data.  Apply records retention policies and automatically purge select content from both the collaboration platform and the data fabric.

Data Holds and Search & Discover

Preserve and protect data from spoliation. Create legal holds, quickly search held data by custodian, date range, and/or keyword.

Privacy and Compliance Monitoring

Confirm that employees remain compliant with industry regulations when communicating on your collaboration platform. Easily fulfill data subject access requests and the right to be forgotten.

To learn more, please visit www.awarehq.com

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen Accenture, working across industries with 100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part-time on the topic at Ohio University.

 

RESOURCES:

Ready to measure your leadership skills? Complete your complimentary assessment through the Innovative Leadership Institute. Learn the 7 leadership skills required to succeed during disruption and innovation.

  1. Take the next step with this 30-minute course on Leading during Disruption
  2. Review our Comprehensive Leadership Development programs and find your perfect fit!

To-do list:

Additional Resources offered by our trusted colleagues and partners

Join Maureen at the International Leadership Association’s 24th Global Conference in October to explore wisdom and its role in times of crisis. Discover cutting-edge practice and theory, and meet and connect with the people whose work will inspire you — including successful business executives and public leaders, thought-provoking authors and researchers, experienced educators, game-changing coaches, and organizational development professionals.  The conference takes place online October 6-7 and in person in Washington, D.C. October 13-16. Learn more at https://ilaglobalconference.org  

James Madison University, in partnership with the Innovative Leadership Institute, will begin The Innovative Leadership Certificate Program on November 1st.  The program prepares participants to understand their vision, values, and strengths as a leader and is a very valuable program for working professionals ready for promotion.  To learn more and register, click here.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

To Combat Climate Despair, We Must Cultivate Resilient Collective Action

This week’s article features Leah Lizarondo, CEO and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a social enterprise with a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are food insecure.  Her interview is a part of the International Leadership Association Series.  These interviews feature guests from the 2021 Annual Conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October of 2021.  The article is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Reimagining Leadership to Solve Food Insecurity that aired on Tuesday, April 19th, 2022.

Here is a short clip of the interview:

Here is the full interview:

Amidst the continuous flood of alarming climate change news, we are increasingly seeing stories about phenomena like “climate depression” and “climate anxiety.” The scale of the problem can be paralyzing, especially for ordinary citizens without wealth or political might to muster against it. But collectively, those regular people have the potential to make a huge difference – how do we help them overcome the inertia of climate despair and contribute to big solutions? The answer is to place effective and rewarding tools in their hands.

Designing the Right Tool for the Problem

Our organization, 412 Food Rescue, and its national tech platform, Food Rescue Hero, bridge the last mile between businesses with good surplus food and the people who need that food the most. I was inspired to start this work when I learned an alarming statistic: in the U.S., up to 40% of the food we produce is wasted, while one in seven households are food-insecure.

Almost a third of this waste occurs at grocery stores, restaurants, and other consumer-facing businesses. Every year, this sector finds itself with 23 million tons of surplus food that it can’t sell. Most of it ends up in landfills, where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Much of the food that is discarded at the retail level is still good to eat, but only a small percentage is ever donated. Retail food donation presents a number of logistical challenges: pick-up locations are dispersed; amounts and types of food are variable and unpredictable; and most surplus food is fresh and perishable and therefore needs to be consumed quickly.

The traditional spoke-and-hub model of retail food donation, based on trucks making regular pick-ups and delivering to a central food bank, misses too much food. We need a more flexible model to reach all available surplus and bring it to the nonprofits, community access points and homes where it can do the most good.

When we were creating Food Rescue Hero, we recognized that there was already an existing model for transport from a broad array of pick-up locations to a broad array of drop-off locations: ridesharing and food delivery apps like Uber and DoorDash. While those platforms are based on the work of paid drivers, we made Food Rescue Hero for volunteers. We believed that most people were looking to technology not only for ways to earn money, smooth over inconveniences, and get instant gratification, but also for ways to do good.

Our Food Rescue Heroes have vindicated that belief abundantly. We have recruited the world’s largest network of on-demand volunteer drivers, 27,000+ strong and growing, and they deliver on 99% of all available rescues from our hundreds of donor businesses. They are not only reliable but also, often, prolific. Many have performed hundreds of rescues. One particular septuagenarian in Pittsburgh has completed over 1,500 rescues.

Thanks to all of the volunteers across the 15 cities with active Food Rescue Hero networks, we have reached over 80 million pounds of good food saved to feed people instead of landfills. That’s equivalent to almost 67 million meals, carried to their destinations in our volunteers’ cars or trucks, in their minivans next to children excited to help, on their bikes, or even on their shoulders as they make deliveries on foot. And all sorts of people have stepped up to do this work: artists, activists, teachers, musicians, small business owners, parents, teenagers, retirees, and many more.

What is it that keeps these volunteers so engaged?

Centering the Human in the Design

Research indicates that one of the main barriers to volunteering is that people feel they don’t have enough time, or that volunteer schedules are too inflexible. The same ridesharing-style model that resolves the logistical barriers of food donation can also resolve these personal barriers.

Like a driver for Uber, a user of the Food Rescue Hero app gets notifications on their phone when a nearby rescue is available. They can also go on the app and search for local rescues any time they want. In this way, the app regularly presents users with opportunities to engage, on their terms. Once they accept a rescue, the app guides them through the process of pick-up and drop-off, for an easy, seamless experience. Most rescues take under an hour, and users can pick one up whenever they have time. There is no obligation to commit to a regular rescue – though many end up doing so.

A problem like food waste can feel both daunting and distant. If you are not a grocery store employee tasked with dumping pounds and pounds of nutritious food into the dumpster every night because it will not be sold before its “best by” date, you may not be able to wrap your mind around the problem.

But if you show up to the grocery store and load boxes of that good food into your car instead, the problem becomes tangible. And if you then deliver that food to a community center or a public housing complex where people are excited to see you and find out what you’ve brought to help them through the week, you vividly experience just how much power that simple act has. A carload of food that could be rotting in a landfill is instead ensuring that a community will not go hungry.

Our app delivers donated food, but it also, crucially, delivers that pay-off to volunteers: the incomparable, indescribable feeling of fulfillment at your core after you know you have made a difference. It’s a million times better than seeing a “like” on your social media post. It’s life-changing. It keeps people coming back.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Leah Lizarondo is the founder of Food Rescue Hero®, a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that fights food waste and hunger in 16 cities. Her work has been featured in NPR, Fast Company, and The Washington Post, among others. Leah is originally from the Philippines and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Reimagining Leadership Together Globally

This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, was originally published by the Forbes Coaches Council.  This article is a companion to the interview Cynthia Cherry, President and CEO and Mike Hardy, Board Chair of the International Leadership Association did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The interview titled ILA – Being the Living Model for Reimagining Leadership Together on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022.

Here is a short clip from the interview:

Here is the interview in its entirety:

As we continue to experience unprecedented change and anticipate the rate of change will continue to accelerate, I believe we as leaders, thought leaders and academics need to rethink what it means to be a highly effective leader and how to develop these leaders. I have been a Fellow with the International Leadership Association since 2019. As part of this Fellowship, I “work at the intersection of leadership research and practice” and “value rigor and relevance at the nexus of leadership theory and effective practices resulting in thoughtful action-based work.”

This year, I attended the 23rd Annual Global Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on Reimagining Leadership Together. Geneva is a worldwide center for diplomacy because of the number of international organizations, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations, The Geneva Center for Security Policy and the Red Cross. Geneva hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world.

Geneva’s standing as a center for diplomacy and dialogue made it a productive location to host a conversation about reimagining leadership together. The conference was sponsored by The Geneva Center for Security Policy and Arizona State University. Both focused on developing leaders and leadership.

This year, I attended and participated in three presentations, one focusing on the future of work.

Several things stood out to me about the conference for leaders, coaches and scholars. First, the following speakers offered global insights that each of us can shift to ask how we reimagine our work as leaders across our sphere of influence.

1. One of my favorite conversations was with Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada. She talked about the responsibilities of leaders to act from the perspective of being a good ancestor. As a former head of state, she took a global view of trends she sees now and what she anticipates emerging during her life and beyond. She meets with the Council of Women World Leaders, giving her a unique perspective on the type of leadership required to navigate our global challenges, such as climate change and escalated tensions geopolitically. The question I took away from our conversation was: What do I need to do now to be considered a good ancestor to future generations? Will I contribute to solving or exacerbating the challenges we face?  (Here is the link to Kim’s interview: Reimagining Our Leadership to be a Good Ancestor.)

2. John, Lord Alderdice asked who we are loyal to when making decisions. This conversation struck me as crucial for leaders seeking a path forward that diverges from the past. We often make choices that pit our loyalty to those who went before us against our commitment to future generations. For example, if we stay true to our legacy views on diversity, we will perpetuate bias. On the other hand, if I stay true to my sincere commitment to treating everyone fairly, I need to look within myself and identify areas where I act with bias. Lord Alderdice talked specifically about populations that continue to advocate for positions that lock them in violent conflict — not resolved if they continue to fight for their history. These conflicts have waged for generations and won’t be easily solved by a short article, but we can each ask, “Where do my biases and loyalties reduce my ability to create the future I want to see?” (Here is the link to John’s interview: Finding Peace When in Conflict.)

3. Christopher Washington, Provost of Franklin University, facilitated a panel looking at the volume of change we will continue to see during our careers. His panel discussed the ethical questions about how we train our workforce and our leaders to ensure our communities and citizens have work that allows them to fulfill their purpose and support their families. How do universities, businesses, NGOs and government organizations come together to build bridges that enable people to navigate society-wide transitions? (Here is the link to Christopher’s interview: Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees.)

4. Ambassador Thomas Greminger, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, talked about the importance of leaders expanding how they define and carry out their leadership roles. During an era where we see a shift toward fundamentalism and polarization across the globe, we need to build the capacity to handle the current global challenges head-on through dialogue and soft power. To navigate the volume of change, it is essential that leaders learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up with the changes in our world. What views are you letting go of as a leader? Do you have a process to examine your opinions regularly? (Here is the link to Thomas’s interview: Facing a Global Leadership Crisis–Insights from GCSP.)

Each of these speakers, in their way, highlighted the importance of reexamining how we lead and how we make sense of what we see, reflecting on what we are learning, and unlearning. Then, we need to use that process of sense-making, reflection, unlearning and updating our thinking to shape our actions as leaders.

These annual conferences leave me feeling inspired by the brilliant people worldwide leading the changes we see. But they also remind me of the magnitude of the gap we have to fill to create a truly peaceful and prosperous world for all. So, as a reader of this article, what action is uniquely yours to do to build the world you want future generations to inherit?

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

The Heart and Soul of Leadership

This week’s article features Jonathan Reams, Director at the Center for Transformative Leadership and the European Center for Leadership Practice.  His interview is a part of the International Leadership Association Series.  These interviews feature guests from the 2021 Annual Conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October of 2021.  The article is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Getting Lost in the Language of Leadership that aired on Tuesday, April 5th, 2022.

Here is a short clip from Jonathan’s interview:

Here is a link to the entire interview:

Leadership is a phenomenon well studied, yet in short supply. There is a gap between knowing and doing.

While there are many good ideas about what leadership is, how to develop and practice it, the gap remains. To close this gap, I want to look beyond ideas, to the heart and soul of leadership.

To get there, I frame the topic in terms of two conceptualizations of leadership, then look at the heart and its role in these concepts. Finally, I offer a fundamental reframing to get to the soul of leadership.

In my Ph.D., I conceptualized leadership as opening space. Opening space brings images of creating something more, making room to maneuver, taking time to think things through. All of these can be leadership. They help us make progress on challenges and achieve goals.

Another conceptualization comes from a friend who defined leadership as self-deployed in circumstance. How we show up and act in each situation shapes the possibilities for making progress or reaching a goal. It is how we open space.

One powerful lens for understanding the self comes from research on adult development.  This research shows how more mature structures and expressions of self can enable more effective leadership.

This self-development shows in how we deploy ourselves, which is essentially an act of communication. What we say makes an impact. Yet we are also aware that the content of our words is only 7% of what we are communicating. A famous study showed that 38% of what we communicate is in how we communicate, in our tone of voice, pointing to the importance of attitude, emotion and the underlying energy we speak from.

The study went even further, saying that 55% of what we communicate is through our body language. We are giving off signals all the time, powerful clues to others on what we expect. These expectations shape the space we create. If what we are communicating at this fundamental embodied level is closing the space, then we are not leading, but widening the gap between knowing and doing.

Let’s take a step back to explore further.

Recent research in neuroscience shows us a new picture of how our brains work. It gives a more holistic conception, where we see that thinking and feeling are inseparable and further, hardwired into our body. Our nervous system is constantly anticipating, actively using our senses to probe for signals of danger (read change) to keep our body surviving.

Within this field, the more specialized study of neurocardiology focuses on the brain in our heart. This cluster of neurons has a powerful impact on the body and brain, or our psychophysiological system. The HeartMath Institute has been doing pioneering research in this field for decades. Central to this is their understanding of several distinct psychophysiological states related to different patterns of heart rate variability (HRV).

Their research shows that emotions such as frustration and anger create a state they characterize as incoherence. This state leads to a host of problematic symptoms, such as depletion of energy, lack of emotional regulation and lowered cognitive functioning. In contrast, emotions of love and appreciation create a state of coherence.

Coherence has far-reaching implications. It positively supports vagal nerve functioning, improves cognitive performance and enables heart-brain synchronization. The rising popularity of tracking HRV as a biofeedback measure is one way of cultivating coherence.

Yet this impressive list of the benefits of coherence is not, in my view, its most important aspect. Research has also shown that the heart generates electrical voltage 60 times stronger than the brain. The magnetic component of this is 5000 times stronger and can be measured several feet from the body. This electromagnetic field can help us understand how the 55% of communication coming from our body language is creating space. Our hearts are sensors for this field. We sense others’ fields and experience it as self-being deployed in circumstances.

This takes us upstream from our usual focus on language and behaviors. It gives us clues about closing the gap between knowing and doing, by shifting attention to the impact of our being.

Cultivating our quality of being has the highest leverage impact on our leadership.

I propose two simple ways to cultivate our quality of being.

The first is something we have easily in reach, a combination of behavioral and attitudinal interventions. Two things contribute the most to generating the psychophysiological state of coherence; holding an emotion of love or appreciation combined with deep breathing. So, remember to breathe – 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out, and hold a heart full of love and appreciation.

The second is to take a step back and reconceptualize being.

Being is commonly associated with the self. Yet our sense of a separate self is actually a mental construct of the psychophysiological system. This has inherent limitations and creates a blind spot in being. Reality is more than our minds conceive.

What we need is a space to regulate the self, our emotions, thoughts and actions; a balcony that is not part of the psychophysiological system.

For this, I propose a simple reconceptualization of being from self to soul. When we talk about heart and soul, we are implying an essence greater than mental constructs like self. In line with the phrase attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We are soul, and have a mind, emotions and body.

What do I mean by soul? I describe it as a creative unit of pure awareness, where awareness is the experiential realization of the virtuality of self. What do I mean by the virtuality of self? We can still experience the self as real; we just don’t take that experience to be all there is. We keep it in context. We open a space to be more.

Closing the gap between what we know about leadership and what we do involves more than just ideas and words. It requires realizing the essence of our being as soul, to open space for how we deploy self in circumstances. We create coherence between soul and self-in-the-world, our conceptions, psychophysiological state and the space we create.

Leading with heart and soul, we close the gap between knowing and doing.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Jonathan practices the cultivation of leadership through awareness-based consulting, coaching and action research on leadership development program design and delivery in a variety of settings. He has a position at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), serves as Editor-in Chief of Integral Review, and is a co-founder of the Center for Transformative Leadership and of the European Center for Leadership Practice. He brings awareness-based leadership development practices to his work, focusing on how the inner workings of human nature can develop leadership capacities for today’s complex challenges.

You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanreams.com

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Who is More Charismatic–Putin or Zelensky? Does It Matter?

This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, analyzes research data provided by John Antonakis, Professor of Organizational Behavior and editor-in-chief of The Leadership Quarterly.  This article is a companion to the interview John did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The interview titled The Importance of Studying Leadership Scientifically on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022.

 

Here is a short clip from the interview:

Here is a link to the entire interview:

 

Leadership researchers have debated the impact of charisma on leadership effectiveness. What leaders say and how they say it can have a strong motivational effect and help coordinate followers’ actions. It impacts their belief about what others will do, thereby helping align people when taking on a costly and challenging set of activities such as we see as we watch the Ukrainians defend their country. Leadership is the social glue that helps pull a group together and hold it together as people strain to accomplish a challenging goal. Leaders also serve as role models. They signal what actions are appropriate. Additionally, leaders’ symbolic actions can serve as rallying cries for others – direct followers and stakeholders.

To illustrate charisma using, we look at the Russian invasion of Ukraine and evaluate the impact the charisma of these world leaders is likely to have on the war.

Before analyzing Presidents Zelensky and Putin, we want to ground the conversation in some data,  according to a paper published in December 2021 in Management Science, “Just Words? Just Speeches?” On the Economic Value of Charismatic Leadership by John Antonakis, Giovanna d’Adda, Roberto A. Weber, Christian Zehnder, “In the field experiment, we find that workers who are given a charismatic speech increase their output by about 17% relative to workers who listen to a standard speech. This effect is statistically significant and comparable in size to the positive effect of high-powered financial incentives. We then investigate the effect of charisma in a series of laboratory experiments in which subjects are exposed to motivational speeches before playing a repeated public goods game. Our results reveal that a higher number of charismatic elements in the speech can increase public good contributions by up to 19%. However, we also find that the effectiveness of charisma varies and appears to depend on the social context in which the speech is delivered.”

With this research as the foundation for our blog, we explore Professor John Antonakis’ evaluation of Presidents Zelensky and Putin. John evaluated both leaders’ charism by considering the words they used in recent speeches and their behavior and visual images during the speeches. President Zelensky scored as a significantly more charismatic leader when looking at the language he selected.

To evaluate charisma in further detail, John looked at the nine charismatic leadership tactics he uses to compare the two leaders. The chart below reflects the collective difference between the two leaders.

In Antonakis’ analysis, Zelensky scored higher in these seven categories: While Putin scored higher in these two categories:
  1. Collective sentiment
  2. Contrast
  3. Confidence in goals
  4. Lists/repetitiveness
  5. Metaphor
  6. Moral conviction
  7. Rhetorical question
  1. Ambitious goal
  2. Stories

This analysis tells us that President Zelensky will have more success motivating his troops and gaining support from International Leaders than will President Putin. To add to the analysis, Zelensky is also better at engaging in symbolic acts that close the status gap between himself, his soldiers, and citizens. He dresses and acts like a regular soldier and eats with his troops. He isn’t using props and technology. We often see Putin distanced from his soldiers and people.

Zelensky is a better role model and a symbol of emulation – giving an edge to the Ukrainians when looking through the lens of leadership and charisma. Leadership works not only in motivating followers. It also helps motivate stakeholders to take action that will help bring a collective together, such as the European Union, to reach a collective goal of winning the war against Russia. Both of these leaders are role models that set the tone for others.

Because Zelensky is such a charismatic leader, his skills will help steel the hearts of the Ukrainians. They have a cause to fight for, their country and homes, and a collective identity to defend. While the Ukrainians have more to lose in this war, the leadership of President Zelensky provides additional motivation and collective identity, and President Putin provides the Russian troops and other countries he is trying to unite around his cause.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

 

 

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

This week’s article is provided by Pauline Koelbl, AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled ShEquity: A Refugee’s Path to Empowering Women & Their Businesses that aired on Tuesday, March 8th, 2022.

 

Closing the gender gap can add $12 trillion to global growth. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged. But economics is only half the story.

Globally, women are not fully included in economic activities and female entrepreneurs continue to receive less funding than their male counterparts. COVID19 has exacerbated the existing inequity despite the fact that women have been at the frontlines of addressing different challenges linked to the pandemic.  According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. Thus, closing the existing gender gap is not a charity but a smart thing to do!

Accessing funding is even harder for dark and brown-looking women. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged.  This, despite the fact that Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs globally, and 40% of Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) are led and owned by women. I established ShEquity to address the existing gender funding gap in Africa by providing smart investment to African female founders who are creating impactful, innovative and scalable solutions to many challenges faced by many Africans.

The challenges that African female founders face are widespread and in many ways endemic, but when we discover innovative solutions that many female entrepreneurs are creating, we unearth new ways of accelerating the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and catalyzing inclusive economic growth.

The most enduring hurdle for African female entrepreneurs is financing. The scale of the gender financing gap for Africa’s early-stage ventures is nothing short of breathtaking, as indicated by the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab. It produces rigorous research on what works and what does not work for women’s economic empowerment, and its analysis shows that between 2013 and 2021, only three percent (3%) of start-up funding on the African continent went to all-female founding teams. This gap is not improving: the Big Deal Substack reports that only 0.95% of the funding raised by African startups in 2021 went to startups founded or led by a woman or female-only team, compared to 82% for male counterparts.

If we drill down, there are complex issues at play here, including the fact that there are very few African female Fund Managers and gender-lens Funds as well as the differences in how men and women think about their enterprise financing. Female founders are less likely to pitch for equity investments but are more likely to apply for bank loans. Often, they are also unable to access loans due to the existing collateral biases. This points to the reality that the world of Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) is male-dominated and geared towards male entrepreneurs and self-confidence issues.

Being a female-led gender-lens investor, ShEquity brings diversity to the world of investors. Additionally, the matter of self-confidence is addressed head-on at ShEquity. We very pointedly offer more than just financing – we combine cash investment with technical support, and access to high-value networks. We are unapologetic in stepping up and giving the women we work with this kind of practical and operational support – because where inequity exists, action is needed.

But it is not only for the benefit of the woman entrepreneur. Since we launched in 2020, we have already built a strong pipeline of de-risked deals, which allows investors to have access to the fertile African startup market. Investors want to know that the start-ups they entrust their money with are gearing up for success, which is why at ShEquity, we created an accelerator called SHEBA (ShEquity Business Accelerator). SHEBA serves as a Technical Assistance (TA) facility, providing pre-investment support, including a 16-week acceleration program focusing on de-risking qualifying businesses as well as post-investment value addition focusing on the development of growth strategies, networking, and soft skills including leadership.  Our ecosystem strategy allows our investors to have a multifarious return: fiscal, social, and environmental.

The social impact also has multiplier effects, touching upon the lives of so many people in so many ways. When leveraged together, two of the SDGs – gender equality and climate action – can impact nearly all the other SDGs, such as eliminating hunger and ensuring health and well-being. Together, gender and climate alone can unlock opportunities across societal goals. I have seen first-hand how, by leveraging the talents, skills and innovation of female entrepreneurs, we can bring needed actions to global challenges such as climate change and SDG priorities like equitable access to healthcare and food security.

 

At ShEquity, our investees address a vast array of environmental, social and economic issues. Examples include Ecodudu, a circular economy company feeding the future with insect-based protein, and a bus ride-sharing platform called Shuttlers, which sets out to reduce car use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Widenergy is dedicated to the last-mile distribution of clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions. It sets out to realize a world where every African woman and girl has access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for better life chances, health, education and household income.

This all amounts to the creation of a gender-lens investment model – a brand new ecosystem that provides much-needed support to early-stage female-led and owned businesses. Crucially, it is an approach that reassures potential investors that they are investing in de-risked, scalable and impactful companies. Such companies have the capacity to generate a triple-bottom-line return while addressing different challenges, creating decent jobs and contributing to meeting the SDGs. In the end, ShEquity’s ultimate goal is to be ‘Doing Well While Doing Good’ – and we are proud to bring so many investors with us on such a crucial journey.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

 

About the Author

Pauline Koelbl is AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, Pauline is a leading innovation expert in developing & emerging economies, impact investor and seasoned impact-driven team leader with over 20 years experience in international affairs and venture philanthropy.

AfriProspect focuses on connecting African innovators with global markets, and ShEquity provides smart investment to impactful and scalable African female-led and owned businesses. Pauline also has 10+ years’ experience catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa and her passion lies in innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and women’s economic empowerment.

A double Fulbright -Scholar and Fellow-, Pauline is currently serving on a variety of Boards of companies/organizations connected to business, entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Pauline holds an Executive Education in Innovation for Economic Development from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a Master’s Degree (MA) in Poverty and Development, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies (Honors) from the University of Arizona (UoA), USA.

You can reach Pauline at p.koelbl@shequity.com

The Future, Through the Lens of Entrepreneurs

This week’s article is provided by Faris Alami, Founder and CEO of ISM.  It is a companion to the interview he and Dr. Christopher Washington did on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future.  Their interview titled Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees, aired on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022.

Here’s a short clip of Faris Almi and Christopher Washington’s interview:

 

Here’s the full interview:

For the past few years we have faced the challenges of COVID-19, from the initial shutdowns to the reopening, to the next shutdown and reopening — each part of the “new reality.”

Many have found it devastating. They grieve for the loss of nearly a million lives in the U.S. alone, as well the loss of businesses and communities According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “the pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels during the first year of the viral outbreak, according to a study released by economists at the Fed.” (Simon, 2021)

At the same time, the pandemic also provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses.

“The new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday… found that a whopping 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million.”-Andrea Hsu, NPR.org

As with any other challenge, there will always be some who gain while others lose. As we continue to deal with the implications of COVID-19, there are opportunities to create new platforms and paths to explore to pursue the dream of starting a business.

The “New Reality” of the Corporate World

The reality of the pandemic has shifted the workforce in a variety of ways. The initial and most tangible shift is the transition and creation of remote jobs. According to the NCCI, only 6% of employed Americans worked from home before the pandemic. Initially, about 35% of the workforce worked remotely in the first four weeks of the pandemic. As of May 2021, about 24% of employed Americans still work remotely, with no plans to return to the office. 

Instead of being in person, working right there in the office, many people continue to work remotely — managing and tending to their business tasks, their personal lives, their kids, and sometimes their elders, all at once, and all in the same place.

The workforce has shifted. These times create new challenges, and also generate new problems to be solved — thus producing opportunities for innovative solutions to accommodate this new sect of employment.

Lifestyle and Purpose as a Priority

The second shift is in the mindset of workers and the realization of their top priorities truly are. The time with family and friends has allowed a reflection on the importance of finding purposeful work. They no longer look for a job just to have a job, they are looking for a job with a purpose — to have a better life, to have a better world, support the underserved, the underrepresented, go to the moon — whatever it is, their purpose is driving their job search.

After the pandemic shifted many Americans’ lifestyles, the flexibility and remote work made many not want to return to the office and maintain that level of flexibility they got to experience as a result of the pandemic.

They ask themselves: Will this job allow me to fulfill my purpose?

Purpose or Wage Ratio Increase?

Many aspects of business have been affected by the pandemic, including the cost and availability of labor. The entrepreneurial spirit of Americans was ignited during this period of reflection. With many Americans looking for purposeful work, they are also looking for purposeful pay.  According to the Pew Research center, “the wage ratio increased to 16% by the third quarter of 2020 and had ascended to 19% by the second quarter of 2021.” (Kochhar, Bennett 2021).

This created a new challenge for entrepreneurs — particularly small businesses or startups. Many don’t have the funds to create those jobs. Sometimes there is not enough revenue to justify the payment for that work.

This is why you see the shift today — some entrepreneurs are able to navigate this new reality by hiring and training new talent. They are facing the fact that they can no longer afford talented individuals with experience. Those folks, most of the time, have been able to launch their own businesses or find jobs that will pay them what they are worth.

The End of a 40 Hour Work Week?

That represents a new challenge for entrepreneurs accustomed to having people 40-50 hours a week. And there must be a mind shift, not just a physical shift. They need to find new ways to allocate and articulate their work in a 20- or 30-hour work schedule rather than a 40-hour schedule.

This may mean that looking for a team of people working part time as opposed to 1 full time employee may be the best way to find success. Some of the benefits of hiring a team are the opportunity for innovation with more minds collaborating, less opportunity for employees to feel overworked or burned out, increasing retention, and increased productivity within the time they do work instead of just fulfilling the 40 hours to ‘complete’ their schedule.

It took a few years for us to successfully shift from an in-person workplace to a virtual staff. It will probably take time to reverse that shift. We could be looking at 2023 or 2024 before whatever this “new normal” becomes apparent. Sometimes you are open, sometimes you are closed, sometimes someone’s not able to show up.

I encourage entrepreneurs who are starting or growing businesses — specifically small and medium businesses or startups —to rethink the way they view the workforce. It seems that we still can hire for attitude and train for skills!

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this really a full-time position, or can these tasks be completed on a part-time basis?
  2. Can this job be divided amongst a team instead of just an individual?

Why does your business exist? What purpose are you fulfilling for the community or for the customers you serve? The answer might help you attract the talent to want to work with you toward your purpose.

With this article, my goal is not to tell you what or what not to do, but only to inspire conversation for us to think about these ideas.

Keep thinking about the future of work through the lens of entrepreneurs, as they face new challenges every day.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

As Founder and CEO of ISM, Faris Alami works with international leaders and entrepreneurs on strategies and implementations, to create an empowering environment for startups and existing businesses to prosper and grow. In the course of his career, Faris has been a special advisor and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem expert with the World Bank, a Business Advisor with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, and a Mentor to MBA Students and Entrepreneurs globally.

 

Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

Reimagining Leadership: Out of the Ashes…

This week’s article is written by Peter Cunningham, Head of Leadership at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.  It is a companion to his and Ambassador Thomas Greminger’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Facing a Global Leadership Crisis—Insights from GCSP that aired on Tuesday, February 15th, 2022.

 

Here’s a short clip from the interview:

 

Here’s the full interview:

 

It is widely held that it was Seneca who said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. While for many of us, luck is not a term we might particularly associate with the past two years, there is an ongoing, globally shared, developmental opportunity underway. We are all exposed to higher levels of complexity, ambiguity, and the uncertainties they generate. Senior leaders (especially in the private sector and the military) often go through many years of preparation to deal with the experience of no one telling you what to do and being expected to make sense of complex situations and judging what direction to take and what choices to make.

In some sense, over the last two years, everyone has had a taste of what that feels like, when it comes to making decisions that affect our families, our colleagues, and our communities. Without having had the benefit of those years of preparation, for many it can be unsettling and confusing. Like any potentially transformational experience, there is discomfort to navigate if we are to grow and learn from it.

The year 2020 could be characterised as a huge wave of disruption – we had to ride it as best we could, experiment with entirely different ways of living and working, and be tolerant; 2021 became about the hard work of learning how to live and work well within this ongoing disruption. As we enter a 3rd year of disruption there is a cumulative change dynamic, and we need to lift our sights beyond crisis response (that has itself become normalised) while maintaining the capability to quickly flip back if needed.  Leaders are faced with the task of having to cast their minds into the future to try and predict what might happen in the months ahead and how best to respond and prepare themselves, their teams, and organisations.

From having paid close attention over the last decade to many organisations and leaders in the International Peace & Security sector – characterised as having high exposure to ambiguity, tensions, humanitarian challenges and complex multi-actor issues – the following 4 practices may set leaders and therefore organisational cultures apart in the year ahead.

 

  1. Engage in Collective Sensemaking

Attempting to predict the future is for the most part a fool’s game. However, there is real value in dipping into the toolkit of the Strategic Foresight community and engaging in identifying plausible scenarios you might experience 9 or 12 months from now and how you might prepare for these or even work toward the realisation of a preferred scenario. An important element is to make this a diverse and collective activity. If only a small, homogenous group does this then the scenarios they will come up with will be limited and of less value. The more diverse perspectives that you can involve, the richer, more nuanced, and more informative those scenarios will be. Revisiting and amending these scenarios every few months will instill a practice of continuous sensemaking over time, meaning people will be more attuned to early signals of change and feel safe enough to bring them to everyone’s attention.

 

  1. Provide medium-term clarity and focus

It will be important in 2022 to define some medium- and longer-term changes that you believe should remain beyond this pandemic. As Yogi Bear once remarked: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

 

A head of strategy for an international foundation recently explained how they pushed for the organisation to set out a 10-year strategy, effectively doubling their normal time horizon. It involved less detailed metric-driven specificity and more purposefulness to counter the external disruptions they were experiencing. Doing this was challenging for the leadership team yet it helped them communicate a clear direction that stretched beyond the immediate crisis response experience and helped provide a sense of reassurance and focus to counter the anxiety many people felt.

 

  1. Create space for curiousity

Alongside many advantages, one of the risks associated with working remotely, for fortunate enough to be able to adapt to this, is the tendency to become overly task-oriented when you do meet online but also when you are working alone from home. It is important to invest in creating the space for less structured guided interactions and thought. You can revolve these around a particular topic or issue or leave it entirely open with just a simple guiding question.

It can be valuable to carve out some space for more curiousity led thinking and interaction without always having a detailed agenda, task, or a pre-determined outcome. These tend to limit people’s openness to thinking about possibilities and reduce their ability to engage with high levels of ambiguity.

Not only is this motivating for many people, but it will also generate insights and ideas on how to choose what longer-term changes are needed. It also sends a message that you trust people to come up with meaningful ideas and solutions. There is another longer-term benefit; curiousity lies at the heart of a learning mindset and it is such a mindset that tends to better tolerate complexity and ambiguity.

 

  1. Capacity to collide and converge

When we ask people to reflect on a team or collaborative experience that they were proud to be part of, it often involved tensions or conflicts that were overcome. In fact, having overcome such tensions and turning them into positive relations and outcomes is often what people are most proud of. At a time when returning to more face-to-face interaction is likely and public polarisation is high around issues like vaccines and work preferences, pay extra attention to early warnings of issues that can lead to conflict and develop the capacity at all levels to not just navigate this but encourage openness and constructive discussion that surfaces ‘elephants in the room’ can improve collaboration.

If it is indeed true that there will be an increase in talented people seeking to contribute to organisations and initiatives that align with what matters to them most. All four of these practices have in common that they contribute to increased trust, inclusion, psychological safety and are foundations of a resilient, more caring and courageous culture of work.

 

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Peter Cunningham is Head of Leadership at GCSP and Co-Founder of the Geneva Leadership Alliance, a network of associates and partner organisations working together to advance the understanding and practice of leadership for the benefit of peace and security worldwide.

Peter has over 20 years of experience in leadership development, adult education, and executive coaching across private, public, and non-profit sectors. He is constantly seeking new, diverse, and innovative ways to bridge the study of leadership with the practice of leading, especially at international level and across cultural, geo-graphical, political and organisational divides. Leveraging his diverse experience and background, he creates safe spaces for learning and encourages brave spaces for application, enabling people to learn leadership mindsets and practices in transformative ways and adapt them to their own work and life.

 

Photo by Fabienne FILIPPONE on Unsplash

Resolving Conflict or Conducting Conflict – The 21st Century Leadership Choice

This is another interview that is a part of the International Leadership Association Series.  These interviews feature guests from the 2021 Annual Conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October of 2021. This week’s article is written by Lord John Alderdice, a sitting member of the House of Lords. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Finding Peace When in Conflict that aired on Tuesday, February 8th, 2022.

 

Listen to a 2-minute clip of the interview here:

Listen to the entire interview here:

 

The unfolding of leadership over history brings us to a point in the arc of time where we as leaders have a fundamental choice about the role of leadership. First, leaders need to identify where their loyalty lies. Are they loyal to the past, in which case they will continue to recreate the conflicts of history well into the future? The second choice is loyalty to the future they want to create for their children. In the second option, leaders decide how to resolve conflicts of the past to create a future for their children that is more peaceful and equitable.

Let’s take a look at how leadership evolved.

Leadership has never been an entirely straightforward business, but arguably it is even more complex these days than in previous times. Until the advent of a degree of democracy, initially in the Christian Church through the Reformation and then more widely in society following from the Revolutions in America and France, leaders were recognized, appointed, or took power by physical force. The mass of people generally accepted that some people would be leaders, but most would be followers without much say in the matter. Even with the emergence of democracy, leadership was restricted and those who occupied the positions were accepted as meriting regard, if not affection. This seems to have changed as the nineteenth century wore on and then quite dramatically a century ago with the Great War. During the First World War there was widespread, serious, regular criticism of the military and political leadership on all sides. Many of the leaders were still in place through accident of birth rather than by popular demand or obvious skill and ability. The massive losses of life, the legacy of terrible injuries, and the sense that even the victors were diminished by the outcome, ensured that the traditional social and political leadership was damaged. The result was the collapse of the whole imperial order across Europe, with repercussions all around the world. This was followed by an unprecedented extension of democracy and, as the 20th century passed, an increasing and eventually almost universal rejection of the principle that foreign powers, or domestic leaders should legitimately take or hold power in a country by physical force.

After the Second World War, the process of decolonization gathered pace, and elections increasingly became the principal mechanism by which changes of government and power could take place without a violent revolution. The social structure also changed, with an increasingly widely expressed view that every individual should have the right to follow their own beliefs, ambitions, and way of life without restriction other than the avoidance of harm to others and should have the opportunity to express their view on the leadership of their community and country in democratic elections. There was also an increasing belief that anyone could achieve almost anything if they set their mind to it.   Such was the dramatically optimistic vista these changes appeared to open up that after the people pulled down the Berlin Wall with their own hands in 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared the triumph of western liberal democracy and the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution – ‘the end of history’ as he described it.

However, as is always the case, even the best-informed foresight cannot discern with certainty what is beyond the horizon of time. The decades since Fukuyama’s assertion have seen enormous changes resulting from the continuing loss of deference and even respect for traditional forms of leadership, the exponential development of information and communication technology, and a new social order characterized more by constantly evolving networks than by hierarchies and bureaucracies.

Where are we now?

However, the new millennium has also witnessed something even more unexpected. While there is continuing progress in areas like healthcare and technology, instead of more freedom, stability, and prosperity in society, we see a regression. As a result, we have more anxious, inward-looking communities of people, fearful that incomers will not enrich life but instead change their culture in ways that will be unwelcome.

Democratic structures have been replaced with domination by populists, authoritarians, and fundamentalists.   War itself is no longer something that happens on a battlefield somewhere else but is an unwelcome visitor in the cyberworld that I access through the computer in my own home. If that were not enough, our environment can not be depended upon to stay stable and is changing in ways that may threaten the continued welfare or even existence of some of our communities and even small countries.

We seem to be leaving behind an evolving democratic world where there was confidence that the community would make wise or at least relatively rational decisions about leadership. Instead, people are seeking out leaders who express powerful feelings of anger, resentment, and fear.

Now we face a choice.

Either we accept that there is no agreement on ‘the good’, as the liberal philosopher, Isaiah Berlin said, and therefore we must construct a pluralist approach to governance where we live in tolerance of the views of those who differ profoundly from us, or we polarize, fracture, and fight about those differences. To achieve the former, we will need leaders who believe that it is their task to resolve conflict and build a culture of pluralism. The alternative will be leaders who see it as their role to conduct conflict and condemn us to a degree of destruction of our people and our environment, and that has the potential to bring humanity itself to an end.

 

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About the Author

John, Lord Alderdice, FRCPsych, is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and was the Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords during the Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government. He also speaks for the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland in the House of Lords, and as Leader of Alliance he played a significant role in the negotiation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. When the Northern Ireland Assembly was elected, he became its first Speaker. In 2004 he retired as Speaker on being appointed by the British and Irish Governments to be one of the four members of the international Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), put in place to close down the operations of the paramilitary organizations and monitor security normalization.

 

Photo by Filip Andrejevic on Unsplash