Wednesday’s newspaper headlines from around the world showed a fairly consistent reaction to Trump’s stunning election victory:
- Australia – “Shock Trump win sets up new world order”
- Belgium – “AMERICAN PSYCHO”
- Canada – “A referendum on the soul of a divided nation” and “Oh My God”
- Chile – “Game of Trump”
- China – “Outsider Counter Attack”
- France – “TRUMPOCALYPSE”
- Germany – “How could this happen?” and “Brexit 2.0”
- London – “GOD SAVE AMERICA” and “Divided America bitter to the end”
- New Zealand – “Dear America … No You Can’t”
- Spain “God Forgive America” and” “United States of Populism”
- Sweden – “Shock: Trump shook the world this morning”
- USA “Stunning Trump Win” and “Thousands March on Trump Tower”
- United Arab Emirates – “Political earthquake, Trump is the president of the USA”
Our world is becoming infinitely more complex and political leaders everywhere face tougher challenges that seem almost unsolvable. Citizens all over the world rebel when leaders don’t deal with these issues and live up to their expectations. The Arab revolution, the UK Brexit vote, and Trump’s US election victory point to a level of underlying disenfranchisement, disengagement and deep distrust of large political institutions. A recent global survey found that only 42% of those surveyed have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in political leaders, down significantly from 63% in 2004.
This same phenomenon exists in business – trust is declining in executives while employee disengagement is increasing. The Edelman survey on CEO’s found that top executives focus far too much on short term results (68%) and lobbying (60%) and not enough on having a positive long term impact (59%) and on job creation (47%).
Clearly the bar for senior leadership is raising – people expect more of their leaders today than ever before. More results from the Edelman survey in 2016 stated that 8 in 10 expect CEO’s to be personally visible in discussing income inequality, public policy discussions, and personal views on societal issues. These expectations represent just some of the new expectations that can often be uncommunicated. They want and need leaders to stay ahead of ever increasing volatility, uncertainty and complexity. When leaders fail to deliver, they vote first with their heart and then with their feet.
The Need to Increase Capability and Capacity
This creates the imperative that senior leaders and executives stay ahead of the game and increase their capability and capacity to deal with an ever changing and more complex world. Many executives we have worked with feel they are not developed as well as they should be to handle the rapidly changing business, political and social environments.
Part of the solution to this challenge is found in a new book called Mastering Leadership by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams:
“Senior leaders today face such rapidly escalating complexity, uncertainty, and market volatility that to stay competitive they must accelerate their own development. The pace of leadership development, individually and collectively, must match or exceed the pace of change in business conditions.”
This is a tall order in and of itself, and yet it is an imperative for sustainable business success. Leadership, whether good or bad, makes an incredible difference to the outcomes of an organization. We fully subscribe to the following assertion made by Anderson and Adams:
“Developing leaders who can navigate complexity is now a strategic priority—and, if done well, a competitive advantage. Beyond developing competency and capability, we need to develop leaders with courage and compassion, consciousness and character.”
We know from experience that those who cannot navigate complexity will eventually be replaced, and in some cases, the new generation of leadership may not be an upgrade to current leadership. Creating this type of leadership does not happen by chance – it happens through both individual and executive development targeted at dealing with the perplexities and complexities of the 21st century.
Organizations must develop both their current executives and those who will follow to provide strong leadership through ever-increasing volatility, uncertainty and complexity.