Vision trumps leadership every time. No vision = No leadership. So who is steering the “ship of state”?

You can’t have leadership without vision. Leadership implies direction…that you know where you are going, and that you are going somewhere definite. And that is increasingly difficult for anybody to claim in today’s disrupted world. For any country.

How do you successfully lead a government, a team or an organisation through an environment of constant change, with challenges coming from everywhere?

And who are our leaders in this new environment? Where are our leaders? Do they even exist?

Politicians. CEOs. Pontiffs. Mayors. Chancellors. Generals?

In a disruptive environment, politicians aren’t actually leaders. They become managers. Managers of today’s problem. The immediate. Getting elected. The television interview. Remaining elected. The sound bite. Shooting from the hip. Reactive.

Not visionaries at all. Just managers. Itch scratchers.

Most CEOs aren’t leaders either. They are managers also. Managers of the next quarter bottom line. The board meeting. Institutional conformity. Groupthink. Risk aversion. Managers of yesterday. Not visionaries either.

You can’t have real leadership without vision and given all the disruption of the operational environment today, nobody has a clue where they are going.

It’s blundership not leadership.

Best guest. Lick a finger and hold it in the wind. Or read a horoscope.

In fact when you get right down to it, real leadership is as rare as unicorn s$%t, regardless of all the leadership courses that abound across the world.

Because they all miss the key issue – “knowing where you are going”.

Which means knowing where you are, for a start.

Then having an objective and a plan for how to get there, taking into account all the threats, challenges and opportunities the world currently offers.

Which need vision.

An experienced captain doesn’t have a problem with steering a ship across the ocean, even in the worst weather, so how come our leaders, our “captains” are so inept at steering the nation? Any nation. Any company. Any organisation.

Here we all are in the midst of the most confusing and disruptive time we have ever seen and our leaders (the traditional ones) aren’t leading, because they don’t have a clue where we should be going. There is no strategy for Australia.

Where are we going? What are we doing?

And it’s not just a disrupted world in which we live, it’s also a corrupted world. 85% of respondents in a recent Australian survey by Griffith University believe some, most or all federal members of parliament are corrupt. Trust has flown out the window. And leadership requires trust.

“I know where I am going.” “Ok, we’ll follow you.” Not any more.

Having “leadership qualities” is all well and good, but that begs a very big question. “Leadership qualities” for what?

Let’s just look at a list of some of the issues and challenges that we all face as a nation and then consider what the plan is to lead us through all those challenges.

Successfully.

AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

Do you think our children will ever forgive us for creating this mess?

Or for forcing them into an education system for a world that no longer exists.

And also then leaving them to clear up the mess that we created. With the wrong set of educational tools.

There are some real challenges ahead.

And who will put their hand up to lead us through that lot?

First, there has to be a vision of how that would even be possible.

Then that vision has to be crystalised into a clear picture, a story and a direction.

For all these issues and challenges (and others) are connected in some way. So a permanent solution has to incorporate a plan for all of them. That joins up.

A flexible plan. Because things will change and evolve on the way.

Seems unlikely or even impossible. But it is not impossible. We got ourselves into this mess and we can get ourselves out of it.

But we have to start with a vision. And a decision. Not just blunder on from day to day, hoping that in some magical way it will all fix itself.

It won’t.

She’ll be right. She won’t.

We need somebody on the bridge of the “ship of state” who is looking out the window and steering the ship.

Or a lot of somebodies. Because in the absence of a leader, the vision can be defined by all of us. Collectively and collaboratively.

But somebody or a group of somebodies have to be looking out the window. To provide a clear vision of what lies ahead. And suggest options.

Once the big picture is clear – the vision for all the issues above – then we can deal with the big picture issues, one jigsaw piece at a time. Knowing that all the pieces connect and are part of a bigger picture solution.

Turning the impossible into the possible. Shrinking the big picture challenge down into a series of achievable tasks.

Delivered through collaboration and sharing.

And then all the folk with “leadership qualities” can get on with what they do best. Leading. Once they know where to go and what to do.

Collectively and collaboratively we can do this. We have even started.

Wales for example, has an Office of the Future Generations.

That is Leadership.

Positive, big picture thinking – made real. Well done, Wales.

What about every country having an Office of the Future Generations?

195 countries, each with an office focused on the future generations. With each having to consider the same problems and challenges that Australia faces. We could share examples, case studies and stories of what works. Shared value.

Speed up the process.

The main problem we face today is that our “leaders” across all societal dimensions, think too small.

It’s not really their fault. They are extremely busy. They get sidetracked. Overwhelmed by multiple pressures. They become preoccupied. “Attention deficit disorder”. Not enough time. They get swamped by the day-to-day, end of the month or the next quarter, and never get to the year-to-year or decade-to-decade vision.

“Working in the business not on it”. No matter how many consultants deliver the presentation of “work on your business, not just in it”, the message never seems to really get through.

There is never enough time. And guess what? There never will be. If you are waiting for the right opportunity when things finally ease off a bit, you will be waiting into your grave.

You – Mr or Mrs CEO, Politician, Pontiff, Mayor, Chancellor, General – have to make the time.

And lock it in. And don’t allow that time to be messed with in any way.

There is lip service paid to vision through the creation of multiple 2020, 2030 and 2050 reports and plans, but these are all vapid, tick box exercises, not realistic plans for addressing the future.

And they inevitably end up in the circular filing cabinet. Never actioned. A default for thinking and acting.

Addressing the “future today” requires action. Real projects. Starting today. Trials. Experiments. Not talking about starting.

But day-to-day issues are intrusive and voracious, and bully, hoodwink and channel leadership into management, denial, groupthink, willful blindness, risk aversion and inaction.

Leaders are transformed into followers, dealing with whatever is the most immediate issue. Leadership becomes followship.

Vision – is blocked. Then suddenly the next election (or whatever) rolls around and nothing much has been achieved. Again.

Ideology is just another form of voluntary blindness. Prejudgment. Prejudice.

Ideology prevents individuals from looking clearly at new, disruptive situations and making the best choices. Ideology shapes and manipulates choices.

The status quo, the current status is not what it was. It requires a new set of responses. Tinned or cookie cutter responses to change no longer work, if they ever did.

“It’s socialism = therefore I can’t consider this”, or “It’s capitalism = therefore it’s evil”, or “It’s from the left”, or “It’s from the right”. Ideology is history. Ideology is voluntary blindness.

The world is flat. The earth is the centre of the universe. We have been here before, remember?

Wake up guys. The world has changed. And is changing. The digital revolution powers on regardless. The pollution and impacts of the industrial revolution also power on regardless.

But voluntary blindness hasn’t changed. It’s as though nearly half the world is wearing coloured glasses that only deliver one point of view while the other half wear another colour. Voluntary blindness is a form of laziness. A refusal to think afresh. To consider or reconsider. Prepackaged prejudice.

Luckily, beyond the darkness, many individuals and groups of individuals are looking at this new disruptive world with clear eyes and suggesting that it might be time for a fresh look at our condition. We got ourselves into this condition and we have to get ourselves out.

The Hans Christian Andersen, “Emperor’s new clothes” story published in 1837 is real and relevant today in 2018. Worth reading again. We have to look past ideology and prejudice, and pick good ideas from wherever they exist and then apply them.

Once again, these are the issues we have to address.

AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

What we are witnessing in our parliament this week is selfishness taken to a new extreme. Are our politicians discussing solutions for any of the issues above?

No. They are too worried and concerned about their personal jobs. Because that is exactly what it means when politicians that should be leading the country become preoccupied with the next election. Because the next election is only about their jobs.

Selfishness trumps vision.

Any motivation to look after the interests of the country evaporates into thin air. And once again, there is nobody on the bridge of state steering the country anywhere. They are all downstairs discussing themselves.

In business, the “end of quarter” results are always looming and the board meeting always needs preparation. And multiple pressures always demand response.

So “here we go again”.

We need good ideas not ideology. We have to pick and choose the best examples of what works and implement them. From wherever they can be found. No ideology. Just pick the good ideas. There are plenty of them around.

For, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

We need to get on with it. Launch and learn. Because, then we are at least taking steps. Not sitting around discussing the steps we might take.

We have some big challenges. And we can’t keep kicking them down the road to the next generation. Which is what we doing now. That is unfair. Ask the Millennials.

And once again, here is a list of things we need to get on with. There are others.

AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Wars. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

These are all real challenges. Some of them are already being addressed. Roy Morgan has made headway on the “manipulation of employment and unemployment figures”.

Wales has an Office of the Future Generations. And every day on Linkedin I see example after example of other great ideas and endeavours.

There are plenty of good initiatives under way. All over the world. Now we just need to align them for best effect. The jigsaw pieces need to fit together.

Every positive initiative is an inspiration. Every positive solution can be copied and shared.

Some challenges are a lot bigger than others, but none of them are too difficult to solve. If we collaborate.

The RED Toolbox is our contribution to collaboration – http://theredtoolbox.org

Become a partner.

It will take a lot of good ideas and then a lot of considered actions and projects to gnaw away at this lot. But gnaw we must.

We have never been more challenged. But equally, we have never had more collaborative tools at our disposal to fix things. Or more good ideas. Or more good folk willing to collaborate to find solutions.

So, let’s get on with it. One piece at a time.


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