When the pandemic passes … when the economy recovers … when, when, when.  Bottom line, when – insert your crisis of choice – is over, things won’t return to normal, and a different model of leadership will be required, as featured in the Harvard Business Review.


Are you waiting for things to “return to normal” in your organization?  If so, you’re out of luck.  Leadership requires new skills, tailored to an environment of permanent urgency, ambiguity, and high stakes.


Foster Adaptation


Help people develop the “next practices” while executing best practices.


Executives today face two competing demands – executing to meet today’s challenges while adapting what and how things get done in order to thrive in tomorrow’s world.  Leaders must excel in “best practices” while developing “next practices” and confronting loyalty to legacy practices.  Although this desire to change legacy practices makes you a target of an attack, what true leader languishes in the monotony of the status quo – right?


Embrace Disequilibrium


Keep people in a state that creates enough discomfort to produce change, but not so much that they fight, flee, or freeze. 


Without urgency, necessary change becomes far less likely. But if people feel too much distress, they will fight, flee, or freeze. The art of leadership in today’s world involves orchestrating the inevitable conflict, chaos, and confusion of change so that the disturbance is productive and motivating, rather than destructive and disengaging.


Generate Leadership


Give people, at all levels of the organization, the opportunity to lead experiments that will help them to adapt to changing times.


Corporate adaptability usually comes, not from one sweeping new initiative dreamed up at headquarters, but from the accumulation of micro-adaptations originating throughout the company in response to its many changes in micro-environments. Even the successful big play is typically a product of many experiments, one of which finally proves groundbreaking. 


To foster such experiments, leaders must enable an environment of experimentation and acknowledge the interdependence of people throughout the organization, just as companies increasingly acknowledge the interdependence of players in the ecosystem – partners, customers, even competitors.  It is an illusion to expect that an executive team, on its own, will find the best way into the future. So executives must use leadership to generate and enable more leadership deep in the organization.