These unprecedented times are not as unique as we might think. The world has known uncertainty before. It was three decades ago that the Berlin wall was falling in the early 1990s, we saw the map of Europe changing, the USSR coming to an end and the geopolitics of our world shifting.

In that context, the US Military coined the term ‘VUCA’, to describe the times as Volatile (such is the speed of the change), Uncertain, (because we can no longer predict what is next), Complex (as these trends come together) and Ambiguous (in terms of what the future holds).

It was just three years ago at the World Economic Forum that the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau said “The pace of change has never been this fast and it will never be this slow again.”

And if that was true then, it’s even more true now, as the world works out how to live and operate in the face of COVID-19.

Fast-changing times provide the catalyst for innovation

In our research from the last year, we found that 87% of Australians said that even though 2020 presented unprecedented challenges, they found themselves to be resilient amidst the circumstances. In uncertain times, resilience, character growth and fortitude are forged and resilience is formed.

The effects of COVID-19 will be with us for decades to come. The 2021 Intergenerational Report states that in 2061, Australia’s population will be smaller than the previous forecast and with an older profile. There will be more retirees relative to the workforce than previous data indicated.

The slowing birth rate, reduced immigration, adjusted population forecast and the structural budget deficits for the next 15 years are some of the implications flowing through because of COVID-19.

Much of what we had pre-COVID, we will never see again. We are not moving to the next but the new. It is not a continuation of how things were, but the start of a whole new reality.

Leadership transformation: The key characteristic of a leader is foresight

In this time of great change, we need leaders who respond amidst disruption and adversity.
The key characteristic of a leader is foresight. The reason they can lead is that they can see things not just as they are, but as they will be. That is how leaders can innovate, because they have looked down the road, further than their team, and have an idea of what the trends are so they can lead with confidence.

By empowering their team, creating organisations of wellbeing and communicating effectively; leaders can be transformative.

The good news is that leadership is about the long term, the impacts and legacy we leave. The success of a leader is measured not by what they achieve in their tenure, but by what they set in motion.

Impacting the next generation is what leadership is all about, and even after we’ve moved to the next role or the next leadership opportunity, we will still be creating change. That’s the power of innovation and the power of leadership as we engage with the next generation. In times of change, leaders can leave a positive legacy by keeping an eye on the trends amidst population shifts to understand local ingenuity, connect globally and transform things for the long term.

Mark McCrindle recently shared this topic in a virtual keynote for the Hinkler Innovation Series for Bundaberg Regional Council. Click here more information on our virtual speaking services.

Australia towards 2031