A Leadership & Digital Revolution – Leadership Catch-Up

This article follows on from what I wrote about the unfolding leadership revolution that is sweeping across the globe. How do we prepare leaders adequately for it? This is not an easy task as we have fallen behind and therefore have to somehow leapfrog current preparation techniques. We have to implement “Leadership Catch-Up”.

What is in this article?

    1. Creating more context – the “frightening” future, even NEAR future
    2. Does leadership match the context?
    3. Building blocks for “catch-up leadership” in the digital age, for “CURRENT STATUS”
    4. Leadership Platform contribution to the existing gap
    5. A bold invitation to leaders

1. Creating More Context – The “Frightening” Future, Even Near Future

Predictions about the future – even near future – are very exciting, yet concerning at the same time. Is the world equipping its leaders adequately for the intense disruption that’s on our doorstep? This question led to a discussion on our weekly leadership show on CliffCentral  (listen here).

While a leadership revolution is escalating, other exponential changes are also sweeping across our planet. Please read this fascinating extract that predicts the world for which we need to prepare our leaders, as described by Robert M. Goldman. It gives context to our further notes below:

“…Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. Watson already helps nurses diagnose cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies may become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

Insurance Companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate will change, because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Electric cars won’t become mainstream until 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

Health: There will be companies that will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, nearly for free.

3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large number of spare parts they used to have in the past.

At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

Business Opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed in to failure in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all days on their fields. Agroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups that will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you are. Until 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they are telling the truth and when not.

Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the default reserve currency.

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now its 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100.

Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. Until 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education.” Robert M. Goldman MD, PhD, DO, FAASP www.DrBobGoldman.com

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I see the escalating leadership revolution?
  2. Do I see the unfolding of the digital revolution?
  3. Does my team see it?
  4. Do I and my leaders understand the implications, from a leadership perspective?
  5. Are we holding the right, bold and relevant leadership conversations to prepare and equip our leaders and organization adequately for what lies ahead? Chances are, if you think you are you aren’t – this is how dynamic the current environment is. You have to start your journey of preparation as a leader and team from the stand point of “I/we don’t see this picture fully, because no one does. Now, let’s start and continue talking.


2. Does leadership match the context?

Considering the escalating digital and leadership revolutions, let us be blatantly honest for a moment. If you have your finger on the pulse you will notice that most of the current methods of preparing our leaders are not working, as they might have in the past. Or, perhaps, when we consider the current state of affairs, they never really did – which is why we are where we are. Because the world we live in and its people have changed exponentially and become vastly different – almost overnight – this truth is becoming more apparent! We cannot but ask bolder questions.

Collectively speaking, look at where the world is from a political, economic and even social perspective. We seem to be in quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper into chaos. Leaders are not coping. So, what has gone wrong when there is more literature on leadership and how to be a great leader than ever before in the history of the world – at the click of a button? What has happened with our methods of preparing leaders? In short, there is a strong argument that it has failed the world! We have to do things differently…and quickly, because change is compounding by the day!

When we engage organizations we find that they are trying to respond to this challenge. We often hear this: “Interesting that we are meeting now because we are just in the middle of revising our leadership development programs and our leadership framework” or “we have just been looking at a new model or approach for our leadership academy” or “we are in the middle of carving out the next steps to leadership development in our organisation”. This is often code for: “We recognize that what we have been doing or are currently doing just isn’t cutting it anymore” or “our return on investment is not what it should be or there is none” or “the world is just moving too fast for our programs to remain relevant”.

All indications are that there is a slow realization – too slow in many instances – that something must change; that we are entering a new era; that the way we prepare our leaders must somehow rise to the occasion and match its dynamic environment; that it must assist leaders to catch up.


3.  Building blocks for “Catch-Up Leadership” In The Digital, Ever Changing Leadership Revolution World, For “CURRENT STATUS”

Before I take you to building blocks for Leadership Catch-Up, consider these two important principles as far as preparing our leaders adequately are concerned.

Distinguish between two broad categories:

    1. Preparing / developing the individual; the person; the character, for what lies ahead.
    2. Upskilling the leader – technical business, organisational skills needed to lead now and in the future.

These are some building blocks to consider as you assist your leaders to “catch-up” in this digital and ever changing world, in the middle of a leadership revolution; to reach and stay on “CURRENT STATUS”:

3.1          Outdated programs: You cannot afford to have any leadership programs in your organization that were crafted years back, even a year ago. In fact, you may want to consider scrapping formal programs all together, unless its purpose is very specific – it builds point 2 above, namely technical skills, and it directly supports points 3.2 – 3.8 below. So there is a place for the MBA’s and business school programmes, but it will at best directly build point 2 above and indirectly point 1.

3.2          Current (building 1 and 2 above): Whatever you do, leaders must be exposed to leadership in the NOW. They have to think, speak and do leadership every day; they have to be leadership fit. Like never before, leadership preparation is a moving target that’s picking up pace, as is change around us. The ad hoc leadership course here and there is just not sufficient anymore – hasn’t been for a while actually. Leadership preparation has to become a way of life; an everyday occurrence. The world we live in is a current one, like never before. News breaks on social media as it happens. It is expected of leaders to react soon after and not make mistakes because the whole world will know of it. Speedy, visible leadership action is the expectation. Margin for error – little or none!

3.3          In context (building 1 and 2 above): Leaders have to be exposed to current leadership thinking and doing against the backdrop of where the world, your industry is going. They have to possess the courage and confidence to be proactive, to not only be aware of but be the initiators of disruptive change in order to remain not only in the game but determine the rules of the game. Imagine what it may be like – if you aren’t experiencing this right NOW – to proactively, with your team, carve out a necessary strategy for your organization and people that will lead to the potential demise of your existing organization and the emergence of a new digital, nimble business model, in your life time. Repercussions to consider are never ending, even frightening!

3.4          Exposure (building 1 and 2 above): To assist leaders to be current and understand the context, find ways for them to rub shoulders with leaders and experts outside of your organization that are leading NOW, currently; that are themselves learning through trial and error. Leadership exposure must stretch beyond company boundaries in our interconnected world.

3.5          Personal opportunities of trial and error (building 1 and 2 above):  Thrust hard and real life responsibilities upon individuals for their leadership instincts to rise to the conscious level. This authentic journey cannot be circumvented at all. There is no replacement for experience. However, experience has to come faster than ever before, somehow. Broader exposure and some of these points mentioned will help.

3.6          Mobile & technology leverage (building 1 and 2 above): As Robert M. Goldman and many others predict – if what you are doing does not somehow channel through a smart phone you will become irrelevant. Leadership preparation is no different. Therefore, upskilling your leaders to “current status” must somehow happen through their mobile devices, because these are always with them and they have to be and act like leaders…always.

3.7          Personalize through conversations (building 1 above): If regular, stimulating, extremely dynamic leadership conversations – as opposed to technical conversations only – are not happening on all levels of your organization (especially at the top), then you are or will be in trouble. The list above – current, in context, exposure, opportunities and mobile leverage must be personalized through one-on-one (could be coaching) and team conversations. Ultimately the leadership journey is a personal one, especially against the backdrop of what we are facing, and in the context of a team and organization. And we learn best through effective, productive and relevant conversations. Leaders need more of this to grow personally, exponentially.

3.8          Cost: If quality leadership preparation is too expensive and mostly only reserved for the senior managers, something is wrong. This must be challenged all the time.


4.  Leadership Platform’s Contribution To Closing The Gap

This is how we close the “catch-up” gap in the world our leaders live and lead in; to ensure they reach and stay on “CURRENT STATUS”, much of it through modern technology:

  4.1  Daily Leadership Fitness Thoughts:

  • Leaders receive a daily short “Authentic Leadership” fitness thought in their inbox.
  • Attached is a short – 2 to 3 min – video/audio clip on Authentic Leadership, inspiration or a personal message by top leaders, experts and inspirational individuals like: Shameel Joosub CEO Vodacom; Mteto Nyati CEO Altron; Joey Evans (completed Dakar 2017 from being paralyzed 10 yrs ago); Peter Steenkamp Harmony Gold; Sello Hatang CEO Nelson Mandela Foundation on Mandela leadership; Prof Theo Veldsman; and even international success stories
  • This daily thought puts the participants mind into Authentic Leadership mode, or it inspires and motivates.
  • We encourage leaders to initiate conversation around the thought where possible.
  • Underneath the message is an encouragement for participants to make use of online tutoring, conversation.

4.2  Weekly CURRENT Leadership Master Class Conversations on CliffCentral:

  • A Digital internet platform that leaders can listen to on their mobile devices. If they can’t participate live they download the podcast. There is a CliffCentral App as well.
  • This is an hour conversation in which the first part is a leadership master lesson with a panel and the second part an interview with a top leader – bridging the gap between theory and practice.

4.3  Weekly Leadership Message:

  • A longer article sent via email – also on the leader’s mobile device.
  • This is often a written analysis of conversations held during the Monday leadership master class or somewhere on the three hour show.

4.4  Regular EXPOSURE to Great Leaders:

  • Indirectly – via the daily messages and weekly leadership transformation platform show where we interview top leaders.
  • Directly – leaders may in some instances attend live when we interview guests, meet them personally and ask relevant questions.

4.5  Monthly Personal Leadership Conversations:

  • This is where all of the above can and will be personalized. Experienced facilitators (Coaches) sit with leaders on a one on one basis every month to personalize all the content that they have absorbed over a given month.
  • Although Adriaan Groenewald is a very experienced Leadership Advisor, he has enrolled in a modern programme that will qualify him internationally as an Executive Leadership Coach. Why? To stay abreast of what is out there on offer; to stay sharp; and to contribute personally to this industries body of knowledge.
  • We have a model for your hundreds / thousands of leaders as well – online tutoring – mentioned above. Participants may discuss daily thoughts and its practicality with online Leadership Platform Experts. This can take the form of online coaching; assisting the participant that reaches out to apply principles practically, for personal and organisational benefit. They email tutor@leadershipplatform.com.

 4.6  Quarterly Team Leadership Conversations:

  • Where possible we can engage leadership teams on a regular basis to discuss all of the above in the context of the team. It is a frank, open and relevant conversation to unite the team and assist them to become leadership fit as a team. The level of unity in a team equals their level of performance. 


 5.  Our Invitation to You

After almost twenty years of interviewing leaders, from Presidents to CEO’s to the lesser known; having written hundreds of articles and several books; having worked with many in leadership positions; only now are we STARTING to feel confident that we can effectively share what true Authentic Leadership is and contribute meaningfully to how one can become such a leader in this modern world.

A breakthrough and lightbulb moment that boosted our confidence to share more boldly was the realization that for almost twenty years we have always been in the “current environment” – at the forefront of “current conversations” – with leaders that are walking the coals of life in the “NOW”, today, at the time of the conversation – from political leaders like President Jacob Zuma, Former President Kgalema Motlanthe and all other opposition party leaders to current CEO’s of industry like Mark Cutifani and Adrian Gore to sporting hero’s and coaches like Gary Kirsten, Heyneke Meyer and Chad Le Clos to those that are shaping the labour environment like Zwelinzima Vavi to our bastion of moral, ethical and constitutional values, Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

We now want to come and debate, discuss and share with your leaders what is “current” – what we hear, see and experience every single day; in other words, we are more ready than ever to come to you! Are you, your leaders and your organization ready to receive us?

Before you answer, our facilitated engagement will be simple and direct, clear and honest; deeply appreciated by those that have made the conscious decision that they want leadership, hopefully for the right reasons. This decision is not necessarily a given with senior managers. In other words, the mere fact that someone is a senior manager does not necessarily mean they have consciously made the life changing decision to be a leader, rather than an expert.

Our frank discussion could be life changing for those leaders that truly hunger to achieve their full potential and that of others; who are ready to be brutally honest with themselves and about the “crazy”, highly unpredictable world around them; who are willing to make themselves vulnerable by leaving their egos at the door.

If we come to converse with you and your managers, be ready for conversations on leadership like never before – because we simply cannot afford to do this like we did in the past.

On the other hand, our engagement will also be highly disruptive and uncomfortable for those that are not in the mind space described above. They will feel out of place, out of their comfort zone, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

You may want to invite us over for a bold conversation if you are tired of investing in leadership development that doesn’t result in sufficient return; if you feel that leadership development seems to play catch up to how fast the world is moving and how fast your organization ought to change and adapt to this pace.

You may also want to invite us over for a bold conversation if you are ready to stop doing the same leadership development over and over again, expecting different results; if you are in desperate need of creating leadership fit leaders and a leadership fit organization, ready to take on the real and dynamic world out there. Then and only then contact Adriaan directly on Adriaan@leadershipplatform.com

We look forward to doing things differently with you, because it is the only way in a very different and dynamic world!

Read here 13 reasons why Adriaan is the ideal Leadership Advisor / Executive Coach for your leaders.

Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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