Leadership's Challenge in the Era of Tech-Fueled Disruption

by Megan Fisher, Thursday, April 4, 2024

The biggest challenge leaders face today is their need to embrace uncertainty, tolerate failure, and develop a culture of resilience within their organizations. Adaptability, tolerance for uncertainty, and resilience are necessary traits for effective institutions; and, stated bluntly, have become a bit superficial and by now - accepted as obvious requirements for those interested in innovating through rapid tech-fueled change. 

When we peek beneath the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, to examine the characteristics of successful leaders, who all face the challenge of navigating the digital river of continuous and accelerating change, there are four differentiating characteristics, paramount to the sustained success of their organizations:

  1. Empathy and compassion
  2. Curiosity
  3. Humility
  4. Perseverance

Empathy and compassion - A business' culture flows from its leadership. Leaders must walk the talk and remember the challenges that they face as leaders are not challenges that only leaders face. Every team member faces new and constantly changing circumstances both in their professional and personal lives. Moreover, the stress is not compartmentalized. Work impacts home and home impacts work. A leader who understands that creates a culture conducive to successful teamwork.

Curiosity - Bold as this may sound, I submit that only those with an insatiable curiosity and desire to learn can effectively lead in today's business environment. More and more, tech-driven change has led to discoveries that displace long-held beliefs about what was thought to be universally true. In my opinion, the only unassailable assumption is that we don't know what we don't know, and the size of the set of unknown unknowns is infinite. 

Humility - A lack of humility is incongruent with genuine empathy and insatiable curiosity. To willingly change direction, and do so rapidly, demands a sense of humility - a willingness to not only say, but to demonstrate that mistakes and failures are critical steps along the path to success. Leaders create a culture that favors creativity and experimentation - critical elements of the entrepreneurial spirit - when they are willing to admit weaknesses and demonstrate lessons learned from trying, failing, and trying again. After all, every mistake brings with it valuable lessons, but only if the culture, created and shaped by leaders, is one that values humility as a strength and not a weakness. 

Perseverance - I have always found this trait particularly compelling, because perseverance (driven by optimism) is born out of overcoming failure, obstacles, mistakes, and disruptive forces, outside one's control. In our current era of such profound uncertainty, perseverance is a more critical leadership trait than ever: it serves as a beacon in the middle of a swirling and disruptive storm. 

These four authentically human traits are critically important for leaders to possess, in general, but more so in this rapidly changing, tech-driven economic environment. Such leaders build and shape cultures that can adapt, tolerate uncertainty, and demonstrate resilience - you know, those high level and rather obvious requirements of today's business leaders.

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