Greetings to All,
“Real Leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary
John Seaman Garns
One of my favorite quotes is: “A leaders job is to look
into the future and see the organization, not as it
is, but as it should be.” And another is “A man who
wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the
crowd.” This month I would like to share....
Rethinking the Future:
Leadership for the 21st Century
The industrial age of business was a system that operated
with linearity and logic— with vertical integration, synergy,
economies of scale, and hierarchical, command-and-control
modi operandi. This is giving way to new forms of outsourcing,
minimization of scale, an emphasis on profit centers, networks
and other diverse forms of organization.
When an old paradigm crumbles
and a new one is not yet securely in place, we experience
frequent bursts of creative thinking. Accompanying this
is an equivalent degree of chaos and confusion, with feelings
Moving into the 21st century amid such radical change and
confusion has proved difficult for business leaders. We
need to rethink our previous assumptions about where we
are going—in business, as well as our societal infrastructure.
This mandate is further underscored by a growing sense of
discomfort in the business community. What we have known
and depended upon for past successes is no longer sufficient
when preparing for the future.
Preparing for Tomorrow
How do we construct a framework to rethink the future?
Many leaders have written about the needs of the future, but
they do not offer a crystal ball. They do, however, provide
a framework for thinking about the decades ahead, posing questions
that we, as leaders, must consider.
Three concepts emerge from interviews and conversations with
leading futurists, as revealed in the book Rethinking the
Future, edited by Rowan Gibson (1998):
The problem with all of this? There is no roadmap.
Leaders will be forced to look ahead and explore for themselves
when making decisions.
- "The Road Stops Here." The
future will be different from the past, yet most of
us behave as though this is untrue. Today's leaders
steadfastly cling to the notion that what worked in
the past will work again. They also incorrectly assume
that when things go wrong, they can be fixed, thus
returning them to the way things are "supposed" to
be. This, unfortunately, is delusional thinking.
- "New Times Call for
New Kinds of Organizations."
Organizations must navigate rough, uncertain business
terrains they've never before encountered. They must
be flexible and capable of handling the information
- "Where Do We Go Next?"
Leaders are finding it increasingly
difficult to make confident strategic decisions. They
need a vision, destination and point of view about
the future, as well as a direction to channel the
efforts of the people with whom they work.
We must challenge our assumptions at every
juncture in the decision-making process and unlearn the past.
This can be tricky, as assumptions are so ingrained that we
hardly notice them. Ask yourself:
Organizations as Biological Organisms
- Why is the nature of competition
changing so drastically?
- What is the new "network economy"?
How does it fundamentally differ from the industrial
- Is it better to be big and powerful
or small and flexible in the global economy? Should
companies broaden their product lines, or should they
become more specialized and focused?
- Will technology make geographical
location increasingly irrelevant?
- Will Asia's modernization shift
the world's center of economic, political and cultural
gravity from the Western to the Eastern world?
- As technology democratizes not just
our workplaces, but our societies and world, does it
foreshadow the end of government as we know it?
The new organization will resemble a biological
organism more than a machine. It will consist of a distributed
network of minds people working and learning together,
both inside and outside company walls, with an invitation
for customers to participate.
The challenge calls for radical change.
Here are some questions to examine:
- How do we create a radically decentralized,
- Which principles will guide the
successful 21st-century enterprise? Should top management
give employees a meaningful voice when it comes to ownership
and running the company?
- As corporations and their networks
become increasingly complex, how will we control them?
Will companies develop a bottom-up type of control,
as we find in a swarm of bees or flock of birds?
- Will the shift to a new management
model become a global phenomenon, or will there be different
rates of progress in distinct parts of the world?
Many organizations are investing
capital in operational efficiency, as if it were a destination
unto itself. "Lean and mean" does not lead to success
in the new century. Winning organizations will stay ahead
of the change curve, creating new markets and reinventing
the rules of competition.
Leaders will need to look forward, scan the landscape,
and spot trends and new opportunities. They will use advanced
technology to give them an interactive, real-time connection
with the marketplace, receiving feedback from sensors at
the organization's peripheries.
Review the following questions so you can rethink leadership
and strategy for the 21st century:
Leaders are encouraged to think
deeply about the issues that will change how business is conducted
in the 21st century. There are no easy answers. Serious thought
and discussion will help you stay in the game while the rules
are being changed.
- Is your organization
managing the present, without thinking about creating
- Who should be
involved in developing and implementing strategy?
- What can you
do to make the most of emerging opportunities? How can
you minimize risks?
- What will be
required to lead successfully in a global economy?
- What can leaders
do to ensure their corporate culture will be a strategic
asset, rather than a change anchor?
- Does the organization
have a responsibility to give people a connection with
their purpose in life?
Do you know a leader who would find
these thoughts interesting and thought provoking? Please help
improve our world by forwarding this to your friends. Who
knows where these thought seeds might take root and grow.
Do you know someone who is ready to try coaching? I love to
give free "test drives" and help people find the right coach.
Have a GREAT month .
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For the last twenty
years Jerry has been president of his own firm. He has spent his
career helping small business organizations grow and succeed. He
has a passion for success that he shares with his clients. His current
focus is providing executive and personal coaching to persons who
are interested in improving their effectiveness and their ability
to be successful. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with
The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Plan Consultant.
Jerry has facilitated planning retreats and planning sessions for
Jerry’s experience includes serving as Vice-president of Marketing
for IGA staff office, Vice-president of membership for the National
Grocers Association, Sr. Vice-president of procurement for Shurfine
International and the Managing Director of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.
Jerry is an Eagle Scout. He lives in Chicago with his wife Terri.
Jerry spends his volunteer time as a coach and consultant for The
Executive Service Corps of Chicago, an organization committed to
help the non-profits in the community improve.
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