Peter Drucker, one of the greatest management and leadership thinkers of our time, once stated: “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapid growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”
In his book “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness To Greatness”, Stephen Covey analyzes Drucker’s statement in the context of history, particularly the five ages of civilizations’ voice: 1) the Hunter and Gatherer Age; 2) the Agricultural Age; 3) the Industrial Age; 4) the Information/Knowledge Worker Age; and finally 5) and emerging Age of Wisdom. Dr. Covey points out that production increased from each change of age to the other. For instance, the Agricultural Age increased goods production many times over the Hunter and Gatherer Age and the Hunter needed to acquire new skill sets to survive. He also needed to pass these new skill sets to his children and through them to future generations. The factory of the Industrial Age, then, came along and it produced 50 times more than the family farm. The major consequence was that 90 percent of the farmers were downsized. Today, approximately, only 3 percent of the people in the United States are farmers, and they produce most of the food for the entire country. This is probably true for Canada as well. With respect to the Information/Knowledge Worker Age, it is overshadowing the production capability of the Industrial Age. Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO at Microsoft, put it this way: “The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10X, or 100X, or even 1000X but by 10,000X.”
Peter Drucker, again, stated: “The most valuable asset of a 20th century company was its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.” It is not just a matter of adapting to new skill sets but to develop a new mind-set. In fact, a new way of thinking. In pondering on these statements and realities, I have come to the conclusion that adaptability is now more important than ever. Transformational leadership, or, in other words, the ability to lead through change, has become more than necessary to have a successful professional life. I would also add that it is probably necessary to have a happy life. It is true that some things will never change – they are natural occurrences and their evolution or “change” may be extremely slow. But it is also true that human change has become extremely rapid and, in some cases, unmanageable.
Having said that, to manage change is to embrace it. For instance, when we think of the way our virtual reality is supplanting the “real’ reality, we realize that the way we live has become an open window. However, I have also noticed that some people think that if the window is open, then all is allowed through it. On the contrary, I believe that it is even more important to ‘behave’ especially because the window is open. In other words, our customs and values may change, but principles are unchangeable. A good leader, whether in a family or professional or public setting, will be such only if principles like integrity, honesty, respect, etc. are part of his or her life and the way that life is lived. I somewhat disagree from Peter Drucker when he says that more people have choices than ever. I would say people always had choices but consequences were and are different.
Last time I checked, good choices have always brought good consequences. It is when people try to force a choice on others, ignoring differences and diversity, and even when a minority does so, that we have true problems.