I remember once reading that middle-age happens when you keep thinking that in a couple of weeks you’ll be back to normal.

To be honest I am not sure that I am clear as to exactly what constitutes ‘normality’ – or at least if I once was, I no longer am. This applies particularly when I hear Vicky’s mom say, ‘Why can’t everyone just be normal like me?’

Perhaps any home inhabited by junior tribe members sooner or later has to discard the ‘normal’ tag. Well, at least if they’re honest they do. How else do you explain the bold, matter of fact announcement of one Sipho Coats that he had named a certain part of his anatomy, which, I hasten to add, I’ll refrain from mentioning explicitly in this suitable-for-all-ages story.

‘Given your WHAT a name?’ was mom’s shrill reaction which was quickly balanced by my more composed, ‘That’s interesting son, what is your . . . er . . . um . . . ah’s name?’

‘Free Willy 2,’ came the reply.

Stunned non-comprehension was followed by much hilarity, something clearly not understood by the proud owner of Free Willy 2.

Despite protestations, backed-up by solid research, that this sort of behaviour was considered normal within the male species of the tribe, all attempts to secure mainstream recognition for the practice failed.

All of which brings me to the point of asking: What is normal? Certainly in today’s world, and increasingly in tomorrow’s world, ‘normal’ is an ever-shrinking concept as tolerance for diversity and globalisation increase. Leading from the presumption that others will see and interpret things the way you do and share your world view, is a sure recipe for failure. Skilled leaders are those who are able to lead in the midst of diversity.

As people increasingly resist the melting pot of the ‘one-culture-fits-all’ mentality, leaders will be required to learn and live by a different set of rules and embrace new skills for twenty-first century leadership.

For most leaders this will not be a walk in the park. But failure to make such adjustments will ensure that one loses touch with those one leads – and perhaps there can be no more serious failure of leadership than that reality. One final thought: many leaders with whom I engage are still longing for pre-2008 ‘normality’ to return to the business landscape. A clear message for those holding onto such a hope: It won’t! There is a ‘new normal’ out there and best you get used to it.

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