THE CRISIS OF MODERNITY
Since beginning of industrial era our world has been facing what some historians call an ongoing "crisis of modernity". As fast as we adjust to new circumstances, circumstances change again, and, rate of change seems to be multiplying exponentially. Of all demands imposed by twenty first century leadership, perhaps toughest is ability to not only manage change but to instigate it, control it and to be it's master. Dealing with ever increasing rate of change may be leader's most potentially overwhelming task. Today's Change Agent is an agressive forward thinker.
The Industrial Age was supplanted by Information Age and Electronic Information Age has made even that seem like kindergarten stuff. The instant availability of information on virtually any subject has eroded our ability to pause, analyze and reason alternatives. In manufacturing world where only a few years ago, "better late than never" was watchword, today word is "better never than late." If your new product isn't first to market - forget it - chances of recouping R&D costs are just about nil.
We demand instant everything
Even beyond new product development, our customers expect instant response to every request. They demand that we be on our toes, ready and able to provide order status information NOW! They also expect us to deal with changes in specifications, quantity and scheduling without a hitch - and with no surcharge.
Is it any wonder that more and more people are suffering effects of stress -- an epidemic second only to virus of offshore competition -- and of stress induced illness? How can any person be expected to cope with a world where change takes place at supersonic speed, where nothing stays same long enough to become familiar, where understanding happens only in retrospect?
To stay ahead of change, get behind it!
A fundamental aspect of Leadership Development is learning to not only cope with this epidemic but to turn it into a dynamic force for personal and corporate growth.There is only one way to cope with change. The only way to stay ahead of change is to get behind it! Those who promote change are in charge of it, those who oppose it are overwhelmed by it! Those who must be dragged kicking and screaming into next set of changed circumstances will be crushed by those who push change ahead of them. To quote author H. Jackson Brown, "In confrontation between stream and rock, stream always wins - not through strength but by perseverance."
When we determine to become advocates for change we suddenly find ourselves in position of pusher rather than pushee, we are more relaxed, more self confident, more self assured and we find that others are more willing to follow our lead. The great writer, teacher and consultant Peter F. Drucker summed it up this way, "The best way to predict future is to create it." It's also easier way! If you believe you can hold back snowball of progress, you are doomed to be swallowed up in something over which you can never hope to have any control.
All change is not good - all change is not inevitable
Please don't take these remarks to indicate that all change is good, or even that all change is inevitable. The prayer of St. Francis (long watchword of AA) asks for; courage to change things I can, serenity to accept those things I can not change and (most difficult of all) wisdom to know difference. The sky will remain blue, water will remain wet and sun will rise in east. The air we breathe however, will not remain clean, with a sufficiency of oxygen, our water will not continue to give life unless we change way we treat our environment but most of us will never have opportunity to make a major impact. We must change what we can and encourage others to do same.
Of all traits of leadership ability to produce lasting and meaningful change is so far out in first place that what ever is second doesn't really matter!
Make change your slave, not your master
How do we take control of this "crisis of modernity" and make change our slave rather than our master?
Leo Tolstoy said, "Everyone wants to change world but no one wants to change themselves." The truth is that all change must begin with me. If I can not, will not, do not change - and demonstrate that change to all world, I can not reasonably expect others to follow my advice to change. If two are at odds people will follow my example while ignoring my words, no mater how eloquently they be phrased.. Only when thought, word and deed are closely aligned can I truly hope to be followed. Only then can I hope to be a leader.
It starts and ends with "ME"
To begin process of personal change I must examine my self. I must understand what I believe and why, what I want to accomplish and why "The soul is dyed color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is light that guides your way." Heraclitus 535-475BC, Greek Philosopher
One of greatest obstacles to progress can often be our awareness of past failures. If we tried something a couple of years ago and fell flat on our faces (and especially if we were ridiculed or derided as a result) we tend to be reluctant to rock boat again. When we believe that history will repeat itself, we become paralyzed by fear.