Seventy-five years ago it was possible to make only three simultaneous phone calls in a city. In 2015 there were some 34,000 per second. The 10 jobs most in demand in 2013 didn’t even exist in 2004. Some 65% of today’s children will work in jobs that still haven’t been invented. Our children will not only work in 10 or 15 different organizations that will be in a state of constant change, but will switch profession on four or five occasions during their working life.
The idea of security that we’ve grown up with has completely disappeared. The world has recently been radically transformed. There’s little or nothing of that predictable society of just a few decades ago. The change is so constant and fast that the future passes so quickly as to rapidly become the past. Among the factors causing these changes are globalization, hyper connectivity and the appearance of emerging nations with their more than 4 billion inhabitants.
The stable surroundings of the past have been completely transformed, and have given rise to a new reality that we are already calling VUCA –characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity– that will create a framework of new conditions and situations. Surroundings that challenge us to turn ourselves into fast learners in a setting where the rules will change so much and so fast that the limits will be much more blurred.
There’s no longer room for rigid models of management characterized by vehemence, aggressiveness and exclusive masculinity. Not everything is acceptable. The new VUCA settings demand new training. It’s not surprising that when the 75 members of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business were asked about what was the most important capacity that leaders could develop, their answer was almost unanimous: self-knowledge.
The authenticity of this leadership requires demonstrating passion for a purpose, consistently leading from basic values, and controlling self-knowledge and collective intelligence. A leadership where the protagonist is the team, in a setting where fragility is the common denominator.
Leadership in a VUCA environment consists of providing stimulating and uncomfortable contexts where people can be challenged and learn. That’s why leadership needs to balance the greatest demands on professionals with a deep respect for the dignity of the individual person. And this is something that most of our leaders still have not grasped.
This is why the two great abilities that are going to be fundamental –in a future that was yesterday– are serenity and an emotional connection with persons and teams. Serenity is nothing more than the capacity to remain calm in highly complex environments. For its part, emotional connection allows us to interact with the human being who works in a changing setting, empathizing with his most basic needs: the need for autonomy, competence and social relations. We all need to part of something bigger than ourselves and contribute socially to it. And to do that we need to deeply change what we understand as leadership.