Although the debate about the cause of The Great Recession rages on, you can’t help but recognize that life is being conducted differently. Large organizations continually push productivity measures and try to do more with fewer human resources. Individuals are spending more time at work constantly striving for the mythical place termed “work-life balance”. Constant change has individuals and organizations in a place of discomfort because neither has had to deal with structural change like this since the development of the industrial age hundreds of years ago.
Many organizations are still struggling with the shift to the knowledge economy; they are not sure how to respond to the new normal. You may still notice the use of outdated and ineffective management models that are providing thin value to a variety of stakeholders. In a recent blog post, I argued that leadership, as it is currently defined, is giving way to a new breed of connectors. People, regardless of positional authority, who are connectors of ideas, people and meaningful wealth are the leaders of the 21st century.
Leaders who connect are significant because they provide a deeper, more sustainable value. Value driven by focusing on the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) and taking the time to show the “why” behind decisions and opportunities. This ultimately provides more engagement with your stakeholder group as they increasingly hunger for transparency.
As an example about what our society as transitioning away from, think about the lack of transparency behind Facebook’s recent IPO. Wall Street firms had insider knowledge (and kept it secret from the majority of investors) that the stock was overpriced. They had to prop it up artificially to keep it above the initial offer price when the stock went public. Whether Facebook losing $17 billion or JP Morgan using cash deposits to back their $3 billion gamble and loss, society is shifting to a way of life where “out-behaving” one another is preferred and unprincipled activity will no longer be tolerated. As with any change, there will always be organizations that want to use their previous positional power to assert continued control, but they will ultimately have to move from a place of synthetic success to one of meaningful significance.
Building leaders and organizations for the 21st century requires a different brand of thought. It requires an ability to understand and master your own abilities. It requires an ability to lead groups (a department of people, an organization or a community) through meaningful transition. Lastly, it requires an ability to catalyze a movement that builds a following over time and impacts society in a positive way, providing thick value to all that it touches.
Together, we stand at a critical juncture in history. We can choose the path frequently traveled, the one that is extractive in nature, providing questionable meaning to those it encounters. Or, we can blaze a trail and build upon the successes of the 20th century and become transformational connectors who are significant both personally and professionally.
I’m all in for the latter option.
For more information about the Success to Significance movement, click here.
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