Funny how some things just stick in your head. I can always remember that the axial tilt of the earth is 23.5 degrees. I can’t remember much else (and often swap the name of my dog and my sixteen year old son when shouting at either), but 23.5 degrees – that’s for life.
I mention this, because in 2016, I think the earth shifted. Not physically, but certainly metaphorically. A lot of things I’ve been thinking and writing about for several years have come sharply into focus. Now I’m not claiming savant qualities – it’s just in my game of personal and business transformation, you need to look ahead. I find it rather useful. I am also constantly surprised that many of the leaders who one would expect to be similarly occupied, appear to be looking more at their boots than the horizon.
That’s both puzzling and dangerous.
So, in the spirit of the end of year, here are a few trends I see for 2017.
The death of the expert
Brexit and Trump. The pundits, the economists, the markets the media and even the bookies got it wrong. Completely, stone-cold, 100 per cent wrong. That’s damning and illustrates the danger we all face in living in our own little echo chambers of self-interest and bias. It’s getting harder to get our heads up and see what’s going on, but, make no mistake, the treasure will go to those who do.
As Oscar Wilde observed,
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.
Thought leaders must step up
Apparently we are now post-truth. This was brazenly demonstrated in Australia when the Labour party’s ‘Mediscare’ lie was texted to thousands of voters on election-day. It’s dispiriting that democracy has become so debased.
Far from ‘keeping ‘em honest’, the media is a big part of the problem. So much content is now advertiser-supplied or sponsored and (as we saw on the Trump election) even the supposedly neutral news chairs are heavily biased. The legendary anchors of Christmas past (Walter Kronkite, Richard Dimbleby and Brian Henderson) would be appalled.
I see no fix for the end of intelligent, ethical and balanced debate in a public sense. Privately however, it creates greater opportunity and responsibility for the independent thought leaders who, looking beyond self-interest, can show us the way to create a better collective future.
White collar jobs are being commoditized
I am unexcited by the glitzy new ‘hubs’ popping up all over town. The promise of open-plan working for independent portfolio workers who can network and collaborate with fast wi-fi and complimentary coffee may become the C21 version of Dickensian factory working. Not all bad of course, but best approached with caution.
Combine this with the rise of agencies like Expert 360 that matches organizations with the experts they need on a project basis (e.g. CIO, CFO, Change lead) and you can see how the value of those same experts is likely to be eroded in a race-to-the-bottom. Both models are great news - for the landlords and the portal owners. But for experts who see this as a new way to get work without having to sell themselves, I fear there may be trouble ahead. Far better to build your own reputation and influence as a thought leader to win the work you want on your own terms.
Leaders are lost
As I write, Tim Worner, the CEO of Seven West Media is mired in a sex and drugs scandal and the Board is struggling to come to the bewilderingly obvious and ethical solution. Meanwhile, Eddie Obeid is contemplating Christmas at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and IMF Chief Christine Lagarde has been found guilty on criminal charges of misuse of public funds (oh the irony!). Sadly, we are not surprised. Leadership is in crisis.
There are many people who confuse being in a leadership position with being a leader. There’s a big difference! And the clock is ticking for those who cannot or will not step up. To win in today’s challenging business environments, we need leaders who are empathetic, agile, attuned and humble. We need leaders who set a clear vision, communicate it brilliantly and put themselves last on the journey to getting there. When these people deliver, magic happens. I think we’ll see a big shift as businesses finally understand that they must change what they are looking for in their leaders – at both business and Board level. The old world of pale, male, stale time-servers is up.
The move to a universal wage
We will see a lot more discussion about how we must rethink work and reward. Millions of manual jobs are disappearing and, as Tim Dunlop argues in his excellent book, ‘Why the future is Workless’, most will not be replaced. The implications are massive. The transition is likely to be very painful and messy. It’s part of the Trump story, but only the start. Many currently successful, employed people are likely to lose out and spend their retirement in relative poverty. Positioning ourself to remain relevant and valuable through that change requires work and investment. Don’t worry, it’s rewarding in every sense. Doing nothing is a sure path to unhappiness.
What will you do?
As we look into 2017, I find myself positively agitated. I worry about the world and the direction it is taking. Change abounds and it’s not all good. But I am buoyed by the opportunity to work with others to see what we can do about it all. There are many amazing opportunities and I have seen the extraordinary results that individuals and teams who decide to ‘lean in’ can create.
I believe it’s a time for us all to step up. More-of-the-same is won’t serve either ourselves or others. So I am in.
What will you do?
Work with Mark
Mark Hodgson offers personal mentoring programs to transform your personal, team and business success. To set up an exploratory conversation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark is an expert in helping consultants, business leaders and entrepreneurs to build their confidence and influence to build commercial success. He is author of ‘Time To Shine, Adapting who you are and what you know to succeed in the ideas economy.’
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