By Dr Olukunle Iyanda
“Dreams have always expanded our understanding of reality by challenging our boundaries of the real, of the possible.” – Henry Reed.
Chaerephon of the Athenian deme Sphettus was Socrates’ loyal friend. One day he went to the Oracle at Delphi Athens, Greece, to find out if anyone is wiser than Socrates. He related the findings to Socrates confirmed his bias was troubled by the results, Socrates believed he couldn’t have been the most intelligent, he also knew that the god doesn’t lie. Out of curiosity, he sought insight from those he considered smart, and he challenged their wisdom. They were all full of self and convinced themselves to be smart and more perceptive than everyone else. When he asked the question, they got upset. Socrates concludes “Now I know that I am wiser than these men because, all I know is that I know nothing.”
At this time of unprecedented disruption recently aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what type of leaders do you have at various social levels? Those who are wise in their own eyes believing that they know when they don’t? Or those who recognize the limitation of their wisdom and continually seeking for ways to improve, experiment and challenge the status quo including their ingrained ideas?
Empty and archaic knowledge is a significant boundary against innovation.
What type of people do you have in your team? Do you have radical improvement thinkers in your organization, and are they empowered to lead and make decisions? If your answer to any of these is No, you are ill-prepared for the challenges yet unborn in the current normal or the next normal.
Identify your boundaries
In this disruptive economic era, sound Leadership at every level is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. The first boundary that needs to be pushed with laser focus mentality and without sentiment and emotion, is terrible and mediocre Leadership. No organization will thrive based on just the residual knowledge of leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reconfirmation of a vastly shifting operating environment. To survive, a new mindset and new ways of thinking must be adopted. We must put the best in Leadership. The best in direction is not necessarily the smartest, but they are those who, like Socrates, is willing to learn, glad to know, and ready to lead. Having the best hands in Leadership must be non-negotiable and should be done without sentiment or emotions.
Poor Leadership is an internally imposed boundary; it is the easiest to solve and the most difficult to confront due to unnecessary politicking, sentiments, and lack of courage to do the right thing and do it right. The current disruption requires leaders who act as the bridge, an enabler, and a good culture and practice facilitator.
Externally imposed boundaries are the second form of limitation that confronts every organization. It comes from external threats like economic crisis, competition, low operating environment or climate change, etc. This type of situation knows no boundaries; it hurts everyone. COVID-19 is a typical example of an externally imposed limitation, and it has disrupted virtually every sphere of human undertakings. Significant is the impact of COVID-19 that IMF projected negative per capita income growth for 170 countries. As tough as these boundaries appear, they are much easier to confront and solve, given the right Leadership at all levels of the organization or the society.
In times of crisis, economic meltdown, pandemic, chaos, extraordinary Leadership is required at all levels, emotions and sentiments must be discarded if you intend to survive and thrive. In repositioning our firm to overcome the current challenges, it occurs to me that we need to recruit the best hands we can find. However, I am disturbed to let a few of the old hands go despite knowing that they are underperforming and do not have a strategic fit or competence for the current challenges, neither have they shown the right attitude towards it. I knew this is the take to decide with my head (cognitive ability) rather than with my heart (my emotions and sentiments)
This is a challenge that faces Leadership, it requires an organization to push beyond boundaries. The current disruptive economy requires bravery and resilience
To push the boundaries:
Willing to Challenge the status quo: keeping things the same mentality is a call for disaster in this present normal. Inputting people in charge of affairs ensures that the appointed one is willing to challenge the status quo, willing to question the current system, processes, culture, and model. Their sole focus is a human-centric reform.
Willing to accept challenging opportunities: by taking the unfavorable condition that comes with the challenges such leaders are eager to challenge their abilities. A person who continually refers to the mistake, error, and omission of the predecessor will be a misfit in this disruptive economic era. Such leaders are excuse producers, and they will always explain away their failure by hinged it on the error and omission of the past.
Willing to learn today’s knowledge is quite fleeting. A leader in a disruptive economy must demonstrate and be seen to be an incurable learner. Ready to learn from others, inclined to fail forward, learn from errors and failures to improve the organization’s current position or offerings.
Willing to experiment: Most organizations and individuals live below their potential because of fear of failure and rejection. The leaders we need at this time must be willing to experiment. Such leaders must understand that though there are barriers and boundaries, we must however pursue our goals and aims by promoting such among their team.
The next or the current new normal need more than small improvement thinkers, and fortunately, the world is not in short supply of people with creative minds, people who can think beyond the boundaries. These people are everywhere in every team, society, countries tribe, or race. Creativity and innovation are not the prerogatives of any organization, gender, or religion; however, how best a community, team, people can go depends on the quality of Leadership at every stratum of the organization. In preparing for the next normal, quality Leadership must be ensured at every level of our endeavors. This must be done without sentiments or prejudice. Otherwise, the outcome for such a society or organization may be worse than the pre-covid era.
Dr Olukunle Iyanda is the CEO of BROOT Consulting LTD and the Managing Partner of Design Thinkers Academy, Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org