I want to re-emphasize a factor with you that may prove to be one of the most important in your leadership life. This factor is the pace of change.
I’m bringing this up with you for this reason: I do not want you to be the type of leader who is swallowed up by the speed of change that will occur during your lifetime. No matter your industry, no matter your arena of leadership, change of every kind—generational, technical, political, economic, market, and cultural—will determine the world in which you lead. Be ready.
Consider these simple truths. Knowledge doubles in the world every 36 months. There is a technical revolution every 18 months. In some fields, there is a technical revolution every day.
This means that what you are doing today—and the way you are doing it—will not be the same not too long into the future. It may be better. It may go away completely. It will at the least be dramatically altered.
Some thoughts for you:
First, defy any fear you might be feeling. Change is our friend. Change is normal. Change is healthy. It’s just a little faster these days than we might prefer. You’re going to be fine. Remember that Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”
Second, decide now—if you haven’t already—that you are going to be a skilled self-educator. The race belongs to those who can teach themselves. Read, learn, explore, and envision all without being forced to. Learn to enjoy it. Remember the delight you feel when you finally master that new operating system and you realize all it can do. This is what the future can feel like to you if you will throw yourself like a happy warrior into the thrill of learning what you need to know. Here is my advice: Invade the future, don’t let it invade you.
Third, stop thinking you have to be on the cutting edge. The cutting edge is often where the driven go to die. I don’t want to be on the cutting edge. I want to be just behind it. There are researchers and innovators who are out there working to make my life better. Thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you Shunpei Yamazaki, who made our computer displays possible. I don’t need to know what they know. I need to understand how to wisely use what they make possible.
Fourth, go smart, be smart. I make sure I hang out with people who want to learn from each other. We don’t sponge off of each other. We invest in each other. We recommend reading, share articles, even sit over coffee and explain something from our specialties to those with other specialties. They will teach us next time. The key to the future is learning cultures. Are you in one? Good. If not, create one. Hang with learners, be a learner. This is the art you must master.
Finally, create learning systems that you digest daily. Use news feeds, podcasts, twitter feeds, news aggregators, YouTube, TED Talks and all the host of tools at your disposal to stay up to speed. You have unparalleled resources at your command. Learn passionately and you’ll likely lead well.
That’s it. Just a reminder. Yet, an important one. Life is changing around you. Most of it is change for the better—but only if you know it is coming, know what it is, and know how to absorb it into your life and leadership.