How can you act as a leader in an uncertain world?
In a context of chronic uncertainty, the image of the bold visionary is obsolete. How can we rethink leadership to regain the ability to set a compelling course and organize our action coherently?
It has become trite to note that our environment has become much more fluid and uncertain—to the point where we may be tempted to retreat into fatalism or even denial. The world is shifting? So what? Hasn’t that always been the case? Hasn’t leadership always meant being able to plan in the face of uncertainty and mobilize people to build the future that you have decided to create?
Beware, warn the experts! Admittedly, other periods have seen economic turbulence of the amplitude we are now experiencing. But the stakes lie elsewhere. We must rethink our very conception of the world of business. Indeed, what we think we know about leadership is essentially a legacy from the twentieth century. The frame of reference then was the large stable corporation, which used economies of scale and control of information to reinforce its grip on markets. The theories of Michael Porter, circulated widely in the eighties, are emblematic of this paradigm, in which the essence of strategy lies in building lasting competitive advantage by erecting barriers against the major forces that threaten to capture profits. However, things have changed radically in recent years. The concept of lasting competitive advantage has lost its relevance in favor of agility and resilience. And for good reason: markets have entered an era of perpetual transformation. In 1960, it took twenty years to turn over one-third of companies on the list of the 500 leading U.S. firms. Today, just four years are sufficient!
It is essential that we take into account the repercussions of this disruption on our vision of leadership and, more broadly, of management in general. Managing in uncertain environments now requires deeply challenging what we have long thought to be obvious. So, how do we adapt to these new demands?
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