Leadership of the future is not about age. A young person can be a leader of the past while an old person can be a leader of the future. It’s a mindset.
For generations we’ve had innovation cycles and every once in a while someone breaks the cycle with creativity and then people build on it with innovation. Creativity is the platform on which innovation is built.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with discovering electricity. In 1752, on a rainy day, Franklin conducted an experiment using a kite and a key to demonstrate the relationship between lightning and electricity, and the rest is history.
Can you imagine a world without electricity ? That means a world without all the things made possible by electricity. Electricity was therefore a giga leap for mankind as it made modern life possible and thousands of innovations were built on top of that giga leap.
The first telephone patent was granted to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 and he is also considered to be Father of the Telephone. Everything we’ve brought to our smartphones since then is innovation, built on top of the phone’s creative platform. So the phone was also another giant leap for mankind because it gave rise to a platform on which multiple cycles of innovation took place.
Air travel was another. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made history with the first powered flight in their Kitty Hawk Flyer. This platform has spawned countless innovations that lead to space travel today.
The other is the Internet. Today’s children can no longer imagine a world without the Internet. The innovations that govern our world today were largely built on and around them. Without the internet, there would be no social media. There would be none of what defines life today.
So if we look at things critically, we see that there have actually been very few creative giga-leaps compared to innovations, but so tremendous that the innovation cycles they created have lasted for years and literally never end.
The leadership of the future is one that creates platforms or builds innovation on top of existing platforms. Such leadership must mentally envision the future and have the ability to influence actions that can make that future a reality.
Interestingly, it is often the creators of platforms and innovations had to step out of a structured learning environment just because it was structured and attempted to constrain and limit thinking to precedent and confining students to what was previously taught and accomplished. Imagine Mark Zuckerberg trying to explain to his faculty what Facebook is.
So, the greatest challenge for the leadership of the future is to create environments where creativity and innovation can flourish and all ideas are given a fair hearing. Ideas that were once considered stupid come back and become the cornerstone. To think that Decca Music, then the largest record label, turned down the Beatles because guitar music was on the decline in their “expert” opinion, one wonders how many other great things have been dismissed and subsumed under the “brilliance” were buried ‘ bygone days.
The fact that the screenplay for Sound of Music was once turned down but has become one of the most successful films of all time shows how important it is that the Not confining the future to the glory of the past.
To be a leader of the future, therefore, it follows that the most important personal virtue is humility. It takes humility to see your students and mentees shine brighter than you and support them. It takes humility to pave the way for them to excel. It takes humility to accept that you are wrong. Ditto for the brighter ideas of subordinates. It takes humility to be objective, and so it certainly takes humility to stay relevant.
Wale Akinyemi is PowerTalks Chief Transformation Officer. Email: [emailprotected]