Book Review: Leading in a Changing World
In September I attended the Global WIN Conference in Rome. One of the plenary speakers was Keith Coats. A South African, he’s now based in London and is a founding partner of TomorrowToday Global, a strategic insights firm. His plenary talk was on-point for the challenges faced by leaders and business today. He focused on something he calls Adaptive Intelligence, making clear that this is a cultural challenge rather than a strategic one.
After listening to Keith, I bought the book he and his TomorrowToday Global partner Graeme Codrington have written together. What follows is my review of the 2015 Edition of their book Leading in a Changing World.
Leading in a Changing World is a small compact book, which makes it a quick read for the time-pressed leader. Don’t let that fool you in to thinking its message is simplistic, because it’s not. This is not a book to read then be left to gather dust on the overcrowded business book shelf. It’s one that needs to be read, re-read, digested, reflected on and, perhaps most importantly, acted on. The sub-title Lessons for future focussed leaders gives an indication of what’s to come. It’s really asking us as leaders to pay attention to what’s written, reflect on our own leadership, and observe the way we respond and react to the environments we’re in as well as the wider world around us.
With an Introduction, 14 Chapters, Conclusion and Author Bio’s, the authors set out up front that ‘the way in which we review and measure leadership practise no longer works’ and ‘that the only way to change all this is for leaders to step back, rethink things and be willing to change’. They challenge current thinking by stating that the art and science of leadership itself may have to change and offer a roadmap for leadership to become adaptive in order to be effective.
The authors own up to the fact that on one level there’s nothing new in this thinking yet point out that what is new in this era is that leaders need to ‘intentionally build systematic frameworks’ for a bigger picture and understanding to then be able to act.
In Coats’ plenary at WIN he described adaptive intelligence as 2 things:
- Living with uncertainty and paradox. This isn’t resolvable so we need to accept it and move on.
- It’s necessary to learn, unlearn and relearn. We see the world as we are, not as it is therefore we must create, discard and keep, and be willing to fail then not repeat.
- Adapt or Die
- New rules for a new era
- Flat-earth thinking and how leaders can combat it
- How to change the world (by asking the right questions)
- The lost art of reflection
- Leading to fail rather than failing to lead
- What you need to know about technology
- Doing and being – what to do next
Perhaps we should do just that.
I thoroughly recommend it and look forward to many more people in senior leadership roles taking up its challenge.