New beginning, not a new normal
As national lockdowns ease, leaders should prepare for a new beginning, not a new normal. The global pandemic was a mega-event disruption, a true game-changer which may happen again – and again – during the decade 2020-2030 until science and technology develop vaccines and ever faster responses to sars viruses. We cannot expect to go back to the way we were. Instead, we have to accept our new reality – living with COVID-19 flares up, new sars viruses and regular local or national lockdowns.
Uncertainty is the new certainty
Uncertainty did not start with the pandemic. As you know, major disruption and uncertainty had already started to emerge in the past decade. The Fourth Industrial Revolution – an age of massive scientific and technological breakthroughs – has been disrupting almost every industry in every country and creating massive change in a non-linear way at unprecedented speed. Pre-pandemic, we learned to expect disruption. That was tough enough. Post pandemic, we need to acknowledge an even more challenging phase, where we experience the added feature of regular mega-disruption events like a global pandemic punctuating our periods of normal expected disruption. If there is an observable pattern now, it seems to be that uncertainty is the new certainty.
Number one leadership lesson to learn from COVID-19
The fact is that no one was ready. This is having a devastating consequence for our economic and human wellbeing. The number one leadership lesson to learn from the COVID-19 experience is that we all need to be more leadership-ready in the future – more anticipatory and better poised to shorten the gap between suffering a crisis and seizing the opportunity. The new must-have leadership skills are anticipation and readiness for future scenarios and the next mega-event – backed up by better planning skills and willingness to invest in shaping preferable outcomes. Leaders need to invest in the critical task of future horizon scanning and establish a better warning system of advance signals to help anticipate and prepare faster for pre-signaled crisis. When we better understand in advance what might happen, we can anticipate faster, plan faster and adapt faster.
Empower yourself for The Great Reset
Rather than feel daunted by all these challenges, leaders must stay optimistic. Even in an era of future uncertainty, we can empower ourselves to take charge and adjust to our situation. As per the central message of the Future Shaper book, leaders can stack the decks in their favor by setting out clear preferable outcomes (i.e. a clear vision of the future outcome they want to achieve), anticipating challenges, and prioritising investment accordingly. The theme of DAVOS in 2021 is ‘The Great Reset’. Global CEOs and world leaders will be gathering remotely in January to talk about their ideas, challenges and approaches. You should do the same – and organize your team’s strategy event to figure out your 2021 Great Reset.