How Not to Be a Future-Ready Leader


Alberta’s newly elected provincial government recently tabled its first budget.

It generated an overwhelmingly negative response from the tech sector who viewed it as being short-sighted and reflective of a lack of regard for the importance of creating jobs for the knowledge economy.

The budget reflected significant funding cuts reducing support and incentive for economic diversification, the tech sector, entrepreneurs, artificial intelligence, and innovation in general. This article via @betakit perhaps explains it best.

However, what is clear from the budget is an intent to continue to invest in the traditional economy, particularly the oil and gas industry, rather than investing in the future.

Sadly, this lack of willingness to acknowledge the importance of a new era isn’t uncommon. As a result, it’s become increasingly clear that the greatest return on investment just might be an investment in leadership development.

Decisions - like that of failing to invest in the future - make this a leadership issue because it demonstrates a refusal to acknowledge change. Yet, whether we like it or not, disruptive change is happening faster and more often than it ever has in the history of humankind. What we need more than anything are leaders who are good at being nimble and able to adapt to rapid changes. For those who are resistant to change, things will get much tougher.

According to the late economist, Mancur Olson, there are different responses to change. Individuals as well as communities can reflect differing responses. As he puts it, when places grow up and prosper in one era, they find it challenging and sometimes even impossible to adopt new organizational and cultural patterns, even though the benefits are well known and accepted. When a city or country isn’t receptive to change, innovation and growth shifts to the places that are able to adapt to, and build on, the shifts. Olson contends this phenomenon is how England got trapped and opened the door for the United States to become a world economic power. It is also an underlying reason for the abundant economic activity that is taking places in such tolerant, diverse, and creative cities as San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, Boston, Toronto, and Seattle. On the other hand, there are many other cities that have remained stuck and stalled in old paradigms of economic development by trying to become a tech hub or working to attract large industries.

Ideally, leaders could better prepare for the future by investing in the quality of life that will attract a new breed of leaders rather then by trying to prop up traditional economic development.

The future will need the quality of life that will attract those who are high-tech savvy as well as scientists and engineers, teachers, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects. Thought-leaders such as nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers will also be key. Beyond this core group, we need people working in financial services, the legal and healthcare professions, and business management who are able to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.

To attract these workers, a community needs to cultivate diversity as well as actively invest in the lifestyle amenities that people really want and use often. This includes nightlife activity and street level culture - cafes, bistros, music, museums, galleries, and festivals. Active outdoor recreation such as bike trails, hiking, cycling, jogging, canoeing, kayaking, and snowboarding will also be valued.

The ROI as the result of investing in the development of nimble, authentic, entrepreneurial, and innovative leaders and communities will be far greater if we are to get to the trusted relationships, network, and collaboration that will ensure the meshwork that is essential for a future that ensures individual, environment, social and economic wellbeing.


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