What the Churning is and why we need a new approach to leadership

IntroductionWe are living through a time of unprecedented global change, a time I call ‘The Churning’.

You probably already know what I am talking about, but for clarity here are just some of the specific issues, trends, and drivers that are already impacting our organisations and us, both as public leaders and private individuals:

The banking crisis, the Euro crisis, Grexit, Brexit, austerity, taxation; social unrest, the rise of the political right and left, terrorism, armed conflict, war, mass migration, immigration; the price and availability of basic resources (think oil, steel, water, food); new technologies (think smartphones, drones, artificial intelligence, Internet of things, GMOs, biomimicry, driverless vehicles, solar power) and disruptive innovation (Uber, Airbnb, Tesla); high competition, low economic growth, stock market volatility; mass shootings, gang rapes, storms, floods, droughts, earthquakes, capsizing ferries, missing planes, new diseases (of plants, animals, and humans), climate change, and the ongoing degradation of the planetary life support system we call ‘the environment’.

Just ten years ago most of these items were barely on our radar. Now they are the new normal. And although there may be some items on this list you have not heard of, and others you do not care about, there is probably at least one item that is already affecting you significantly.

We have created a more connected and more interdependent world. We cannot predict precisely what will happen when, but our qualitative daily experience tells us that the world is becoming more unpredictable and more complex rather than more stable.

This combined uncertainty and lack of control affects us all emotionally, especially those of us who, as leaders, are held responsible and accountable for delivering results. So, as well as the outer turmoil of the physical world, we also experience an inner turmoil in our emotional world.

The people we work with — customers, suppliers, colleagues, and employees — all have their pressures too. And when two pressured people meet it is no surprise if stressed communications lead to poor decisions, making a bad situation worse. In this way the churning feeds on itself and grows.

This is the time I call the churning: a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that exists both in the outer world of physical events and the inner world of our imagination and emotions.

It won’t last forever. It is a transitional phase to something better, as you will understand by the time you finish this book. But to reach that point we need new thinking, new frameworks, and new tools for leading both ourselves and others.

Adapted from The Churning, Inner Leadership, published October 2016.

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