1. Challenge #1 – business stability is a thing of the past
For decades, if not centuries, we have been protected from the evolutionary imperative to ‘adapt or die’ by the walls of powerful institutions which owned and defended the means of production and distribution. The typical company in the 1930s existed for over 90 years. By 2010, it had reduced to 14 years. Now, with the digital age, by 2010 the average length of a company’s existence is getting even shorter. Yale Management School have predicted that by 2027 around 75% of the companies in the Fortune 500 will no longer exist because they have not been able to adapt fast enough to the environment.
And its not just our businesses that are under threat, our people and environment are too.
2. Challenge #2 – people are increasingly stressed and overwhelmed
As you read this, depression is the single greatest burden on health worldwide. Suicide kills more people than war and natural catastrophes put together. Anxiety is the fastest-growing illness in teens, and over half of milennials are kept awake at night by stress.
3. Challenge #3 – Our planet is struggling to support our current trajectory
It’s fair to say our planet is more than creaking under the immense pressures we are placing on it. In the last forty years, 1/3 of arable land on Earth has become infertile at a time where population growth and increasing temperatures are causing global food shortages. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world is headed for painful problems sooner than expected, as emissions keep rising, and we are the last generation that can stop climate change The past decade has seen an astonishing run of record-breaking storms, forest fires, droughts, coral bleaching, heat waves, and floods around the world, and these are only set to increase. And this is where we see it all come full circle – its not only the lives and the natural environment will suffer, our entire economic model is challenged.
4. Challenge #4 – our economic models are increasingly challenged
Investors managing $32 trillion in funds have issued a stark warning to governments at the 2018 UN Climate Summit – without urgent cuts in carbon emissions and the phasing out of all coal burning, the world faces a financial crash several times worse than the 2008 crisis. Insurers have warned that climate change could make cover for ordinary people unaffordable after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for £18bn of losses in the Californian wildfires.
5. Challenge #5 – The world is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous
By acknowledging this period of rapid change and engaging with the trends already affecting business, environment and society, we find ourselves very clear on only one thing. The world is becoming for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Known initially as a US military term, VUCA a term which is increasingly permeating our everyday lives, as we and our surrounding environments, economical and political are pushed to limits. And therefore, a “triple threat” is facing every leader, every organisation and every human being on the planet: Existential risks like climate change and social collapse. Exponential technologies like AI and blockchain. And disrupted societies demanding equality and ethics as they experience breakdown of the social contract of liberal democracy.
Purposeful leadership and innovation
Because of the VUCA world we are facing and the responsibility on us all as leaders to deliver a positive contribution, more than ever we need to anticipate, adapt to and embrace this unprecedented change and use transformational leadership skills to forge a new future.
“‘To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, butalso show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.’ ”
— BLACKROCK CEO LARRY FINK
The pace of change and scale of the challenge means we can no longer tackle this from the top down – from business CEOs and policy makers alone. Instead we need to activate a new army of purpose-driven leaders – our futuremakers.
By 2025, Milennials will make up 75% of the global workforce, and more importantly than that – they are ready to step up – 91% of millennials have already expressed a desire to lead. We cant wait for ambitious, high potential young professionals and visionary entrepreneurs to rise through the ranks – their ideas and ideals need to be unleashed so they can champion a new style of leadership and set a new agenda for business. Gen Z and millennials represent one of our most untapped resources for change. They are ripe with purpose, passion, and insight, and more than ever we must ensure these high potential change makers across our organisations are identified, nurtured, and fast tracked on their own leadership journey.
And its not as simple as just identifying them – we also cant expect that a business leadership curriculum of the past will do the trick in developing their skills. They need to learn to lead with purpose and sustainable innovation. A kind of leadership that can drive systemic change, not incremental. .
Some of the biggest leadership challenges of all time are here. FutureMakers, please report for duty. The world needs you. Now.
This blog was written by the FutureMakers co-founders Cat Hirst and Nick Jankel.
Find out more about how the FutureMakers programme could benefit you by clicking here.