It is a great battle cry – shape the future – do whatever it takes. It was the rally call from a conference I have just attended where I was invited to present ‘Savvy Leadership: leadership for the 21st Century’. As I looked over the sea of faces I detected an interesting mix of emotions…

I had started off by loudly applauding and complimenting the company for making that stirring phrase their war cry. But I warned them, there was more to it. I had questioned aloud whether or not they fully understood the ramifications of making such a bold statement. In a similar vein sits the BOE ‘Money never sleeps’ PR line. No longer can companies put out such lines without knowing what that means and what the implications will be for themselves. Now, let me be absolutely clear here: not for one minute am I suggesting that either BOE or this other company (OK so it was Santam) won’t deliver on their ‘promise is just that failure to authenticate such statements could prove to be costly.
The mixed emotions I saw in the audience were those of differing reactions to what it was I had to say concerning the future of leadership. Clearly there were those who ‘got it’ and their nods of encouragement and silent cheers spurred me on. There were those who were clearly perplexed by the ‘strange’ message and the attempts to fuse what was being said into their existing frameworks was extracting a high toll, one that was obvious by their creased brows and quizzical looks. Then there were those who defiantly stared back clearly not liking what it was they were hearing. Women the future leaders. Never! Abandon detailed plans that stretch all the way to the distant horizon. Madness! Break the mould of arrive at 8am and leave at 5pm. Anarchy! And so it goes but you get the point.
There are only two types of companies: the quick and the dead. Change is not an option and the only question is the extent of the change. Not going far enough might translate into ‘you might as well not even start – stay as you are and enjoy the rest of your life. It will be short!’. Leadership is my passion. Helping leaders get what it is that is needed my avocation. For the most part I just don’t think CEO’s really understand what is coming down the pipeline. The wipe-outs will be spectacular. I will watch Santam with interest, cheering them towards realizing their objective. We all will need all the help we can get. Leaders need to do some serious thinking and be willing to do what it takes. Courage will be needed. I am constantly on the look-out for emerging stories of such journeys. Talk to me if you have, or know of such a story.

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