Leadership in a Time of Flux

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by Hayim Herring

By Colin_K on Flickr

The recently concluded World Economic Forum‘s 2012 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland has posted the uncurated library of content, blog posts, tweets, videos and more from the meeting on its website.  One session that caught my eye was titled “The Davos Debrief: Leadership and Innovation Models.”

This session discussed how leaders are usually held accountable for not dealing effectively with crises, “when the real problem is the failure of organizational structures to respond to newly developing situations.”  It highlighted the Eurozone debt crisis, noting that while Europe has “plenty of leaders,” its existing organizational structures are not capable of handling these unanticipated problems that the EU is now facing.  In other words, they weren’t built to adapt to radically different realities.

Perhaps Europe’s institutions could benefit from more leaders like those highlighted in Fast Company’s recent feature article on Generation Flux (Jan. 9, 2012). GenFlux leaders, according to the article, “embrace instability…tolerate–and even enjoy–recalibrating careers, business models and assumptions.”

Fluxers are leaders who welcome ambiguity, an ever-rising feature of our chaotic, interconnected world.  Contrast that with most organizations–particularly government institutions:

Most big organizations are good at solving clear but complicated problems. They’re absolutely horrible at solving ambiguous problems–when you don’t know what you don’t know. Faced with ambiguity, their gears grind to a halt.

The goal of this year’s Davos meeting was to encourage leaders to “return to their core purpose of defining what the future should look like, aligning stakeholders around that vision, and inspiring their institutions to realize that vision.”

That is a worthwhile goal indeed.  But perhaps what is really needed to guide our institutions through unanticipated, disruptive changes are leaders who are more comfortable with ambiguity; leaders who are prepared for a future that may be nothing like what they anticipated.

Do you agree with this point of view? How can the Jewish community empower its own version of GenFluxers?


Preston Neal

Preston Neal is a Consultant with the Herring Consulting Network.  He lives in New York City.

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