Listen to almost any sector of our society and you will hear the same thing. “Changes are happening faster and faster, and we need to prepare tomorrow’s leaders.” The only problem is that in too many ways, we are merely preparing them for yesterday. A yesterday that will not come again.
Of course the problem is that things are happening at such a blurred time-warp speed right now that it feels futile to try to predict what tomorrow will look like. Tomorrow is becoming yesterday faster than ever. So, maybe it’s more a matter of not committing some fatal flaws of leadership development. I don’t know what all of those are, but here are some ideas on how to avoid what I see as the most daunting ones:
- Start now to prepare leaders.
And start today…seriously. Joel Barker, author of The Five Regions of the Future, says, “No one will thank you for taking care of today if you fail to prepare for tomorrow.” I am amazed at how many organizations have no real plan for succession. The highest level of leadership is strategic leadership. Strategic leadership is not about today. It’s about the future. It seems self-evident that if you are making little or no attempt to develop leaders for the future, you are failing miserably at your responsibility to lead strategically. Even a poor leadership development plan is better than no plan at all.
- Embrace the reality that the only constant is change itself.
And even change isn’t constant in that the rate of change keeps changing! Yet, I interact with many leaders who seem to believe that it is acceptable to put people in leadership positions who are change resistant. I am an optimist, not a pessimist. I truly believe that societies, cities, organizations, and people can and will adjust to the pace of change. However, I also believe that leaders have the responsibility to honestly define reality. To paraphrase from a not-so-well-known part of the well-known Serenity Prayer, we need to “…take this world as it is, and not as we wish that it were…”
- Model what it means to be a “Life-Long Learner.”
Not long ago, I had a person who was training to become a mentor to millennials say to me, “I don’t do technology.” Excuse me? Frankly, I don’t know what to feel more disturbed about: the fact that he was going to mentor someone, or the fact that another leader thought that he was qualified to do so. Either way, it’s not good. Not at all. Technology may not be the answer for everything, but we desperately need leaders who are not afraid to master it, lest it master us.