It has become a complete cliché to talk about how fast things move in the world today. But let’s lean into the cliché for a moment, and then talk about how we react to it.
How fast is the world moving? Let us count the ways. We can measure it any way you want. There are no shortage of metrics… let’s look at it, for a moment, based on population growth. The world population crossed 1 billion people in 1803, and didn’t reach 2 billion until 1927. But then hold on to your hats… 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in early 2012. We are estimated to cross 8 billion sometime in 2023. In other words, the world went from 4 billion to 8 billion people in the last 47 years.
What’s the relevance? Because it is as good as any other way to think about how quickly our world is changing. The population growth rate mirrors the rate of change in almost every other metric. The world we live in today barely resembles the world that I was born into not all that long ago.
OK… so now let’s pivot the conversation and consider how we all behave in this rapidly changing world.
This is a business blog, so I am, as always, looking at things through the lens of business communication and leadership. And for the longest time, one of the ways that we evaluated strong leadership was based, in part, on how much a person stuck to their convictions and their principles. We have always valued (and promoted) people with strong convictions. We want our leaders to have opinions, beliefs, a “take” on things. But in a world that is constantly and rapidly evolving, what does it actually mean to have firm opinions and convictions?
I think those things are still important. But as I see the world changing all around me, quickly, I am valuing more and more leadership skills that are based on adaptability. The faster things move, the more agile and adaptable we have to be. The faster things move, the quicker things that once were true are no longer true. The data expands, changes, tells us different things. Our economies are changing, and so are our companies, our customers, our people, and ourselves. We are a community of constantly evolving organisms, and our evolution is happening faster than ever.
I am not advocating that leaders no longer need conviction and principles. In many ways those things are just as important as they have ever been. But I am advocating that strong leadership in a rapidly changing world has to evolve, sometimes rapidly. As the world changes, our employees change, our clients change, and so must we.
I am a very different leader of my business than I was even two years ago. I think about things differently, I engage with my colleagues differently. I engage with my clients differently. I pay attention to different metrics.
Adapt or die.
Have your leadership skills evolved? I hope so. For your sake, and everyone else around you.
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