In an ever-changing world, leaders are often frustrated that they can’t mobilize their teams to adapt quickly enough to change.

Leaders often feel the horizon of their strategic plans rushing ever closer, resulting in decision making that often feels closer to guesswork than science. These leaders can battle to manage their teams, to keep and get the most of talent, to develop succession plans and to ensure everyone is focused on the same outcomes.

Leaders everywhere are struggling to lead. Even worse, many leaders are unable to admit that they’re struggling to lead.

The irrepressible forces of technology, demographics, institutional and structural changes together with value shifts, all impact on leadership. In a world where how we organize and go about our business is adapting constantly, leadership that remains fixed and static is rendered obsolete, irrelevant and even dangerous.

The good news is that most good leaders should be able to shift easily into this success-building mind-set. But the key is simply that: a change in mind-set, involving at least the following:

  • Recognising that we live in an era of remarkable change and disruption that is not going to go away for at least another decade.
  • Doing nothing is not an option.
  • Don’t look for one-size-fits-all solutions.
  • Understanding that best principles are much better than best practices (in fact, best practices can be downright dangerous).
  • You need to unlearn and relearn – not just once, but over and over again. Question your assumptions.
  • Knowing that what got you here won’t get you there. New leadership competencies are required. (This might mean you’re not as good as you think you are as a leader.)
  • Embracing paradox. Think right-right instead of right-wrong. Learn new ways of thinking that rely on looking for new patterns and connections.
  • Pushing your own personal boundaries. Every day.
  • Recognising that you will never have enough information ever again. You can’t let this stop you from deciding, and acting.
  • Realising that you don’t need to be able to see the whole path in order to take the first step. (This is a huge lesson that corporate managers can learn from serial entrepreneurs.)
  • Not preventing uncertainty. Stop avoiding surprises.
  • Going on the offensive: create disruption, don’t just wait for it.
  • Taking time to make sense of a changing world. As a leader this is your primary task: sense-making.
  • Communicating more. Listening more.

This is not a random list. Please read it again, and honestly assess yourself: how many of these concepts are you already applying? In this session, you’ll find lots of examples and practical tips on how to go about this. Understanding our changing business context is something we can learn to do. We can develop horizon-scanning techniques. We can build new approaches to flexible strategies and use scenario-based planning. We can work on personal adaptability, creativity and resilience. We can improve our thinking and analytical skills. We can implement any number of change processes in our businesses, and change what we measure and reward to support these. We can – and must – do all of these things, and more, if we’re to be successful as leaders in a changing world.

But first – and most importantly – we must change our mind-set about the era we’re in and what it means to be living in a time of constant, disruptive change. It really is as simple – and as tough – as that.

We recommend our keynote presentation (or workshop) Leading in a Changing World for leaders and their teams who understand that our approach to leadership needs to change and who are prepared to step back, rethink things and be willing to change in order to really succeed in these disruptive times.

Keith Coats and Graeme Codrington’s recently published bookLeading in a Changing World‘ is also available via Amazon.

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