As we face a new year we have every reason to be cheerful and hopeful about leadership.
It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise our leaders; there are and will always be issues and conflicts within national and world leadership, in organisations where leadership is experienced as toxic, and in communities and families where values and cultures clash. However as human beings we have a great capacity to look at the world afresh using our amazing capacity to reason and through this ability to become catalysts for positive progress. In our current environment and financial situation we are in a good place to embrace the ability to do great things for our own lives, for our organisations, our communities and even for the wider world.
The Enlightenment principle applied the mechanisms of reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing. Enlightenment Now by Steven
Pinker provides an optimistic and inspirational view of the case for reason, science, humanism and progress in current times. In answer to a question about the point of life today he replies: “as a sentient being you have the potential to flourish, you can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. You can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world…you can perpetuate life in turn.” Pinker explains that with this opportunity we can in turn provide to others what we expect for ourselves.
Though there is more to be done in the world, with some areas still under tyrannical regimes and at war, in terms of the revolutions the history books describe, over the last few centuries, we’ve never been in a time where its so good to be alive and leading. People are living longer, travelling more widely and are more cultured then every before. Where the world was shaken by the industrial revolution a few hundred years ago we now can’t imagine what life would be without its advances.
The digital revolution offers hope for enrichment and progress, perhaps ridding us of diseases but also heralding massive change, at a mind boggling pace with new roles for leaders, yet unknown. Leaders therefore must continually adapt themselves as context changes rapidly on a global scale. If leaders can continue to learn they can reinvent themselves, their organisations and the ways in which we all live. Often a lot of what we learn is learned in connection with someone and something, layered on what we already know. Our continued learning feeds our reasoning, giving us the ability to make decisions and move things forward.
Leadership is becoming more collaborative, organisations recognise the need to work closely with those who complement each others experience, knowledge, and skills to deliver something more rounded, more creative and more astounding. The market is full of new talent, with innovation and imagination, the full range and potential of human intelligence. We possess the power to see beyond now and anticipate many possible future scenarios and outcomes. Reason is the tool we possess for all of this, the process of making sense of what is happening around us and constructing amazing and useful responses to it. Reason can inject optimism into work and life.
“ the truth is, if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one”. words from Barrack Obama applies also to Leadership. As we face this new year, lets be cheerful and hopeful about Leadership.
Pinker, Steven (2018). Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (Allen Lane)