Commentary

What does the Future hold? . . .
Just take a moment to review the past decade - there’s been a quiet revolution!

Much of what we so-called Baby-Boomers (now Zoomers) experienced in our lives has disappeared. The concept of command and control which we inherited from two world wars and a great depression, courtesy of our parents, has gone for good. Leadership in our organizations has a brand-new face.

Employees today are knowledge workers and they are looking at a different world. They have options and they want to exercise them; they want meaning more so than money; they are more loyal to ideas than to other people and they are unafraid of authority.

As for us, it all came to a shuddering halt within the last ten years, starting with the collapse of the ‘dot.coms’ which were the last vain attempt at leveraging the future. Venture Capitalists had started great companies like Intel, Google and Starbucks, so many thought that all they needed was a business plan, a few brave investors and an IPO to become insanely rich. It was nonsense and it quickly went down the tubes.

Then came Enron, World.com and Tyco, taking the ethical ground from under our feet. Certainly the malefactors, like Ebbers, Skilling and their like, are behind bars but we shouldn’t forget those hundreds of ‘respectable’ firms, like Bristol Myers and Xerox, who were obliged to restate their financials for  ‘ethical reasons’. Sarbane-Oxley was the clumsy but inevitable consequence in the US and Canada’s governance processes have received a short, sharp shock in the shorts.

Then came the great financial melt-down of the past two years, inevitable in good part because Wall Street elected to continue to lie to itself about realities. The investors’ pressure for short term outcomes persisted right up to the point of self destruction and the embarrassment of government hand-outs.

We have no credibility left and the old order must pass. We’re obliged to look to the new generation for the leadership direction that we have squandered, and there’s rarely, if ever, been such a clarion wake-up call.

We must learn from what has happened. Here are a few of the lessons that I believe are worth remembering:
  • Leadership is not top-down; it’s inside–out
  • Role is unimportant; contribution is everything
  • Engagement is a personal right and obligation
  • There has to be zero tolerance on ethical issues
  • We are all responsible for everything – no blame or excuses
  • Openness and transparency are essential to corporate health
  • Clean-ups are a continuous process not something to be avoided
  • Learning is mandatory and for everyone in the organization – not just for everyone else
  • We need to embrace change and well-considered risk – there’s little worth preserving at any cost
  • Given a positive, resilient approach, there’s every possibility that we can prevail regardless of past errors.
I’m optimistic – is there any point in being anything else?  I have confidence in what I see emerging in young business and organizational leaders. There will indeed be a future! There will be new leaders!

They’ll do things differently, if for no other reason than that they do seem to have different perspectives on this world. At the heart level though they are just like us, well intentioned and impatient for needed change. We owe it to ourselves to nurture and encourage them on to success.

It’s not like we have an alternative after all