Permanent Crisis – The Millennium Leadership Challenge

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an interesting article in 2009 entitled ‘Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis’ which, in my opinion, remains a worthwhile read and is particularly interesting on two counts.

Firstly, it was published over a year after the time generally acknowledged as the start of our prevailing economic situation. I use the word prevailing rather than current because as we draw to the end of 2011 the current forecasts for 2012 offer little optimism or hope of change for the better. The HBR article refers to ‘the current crisis’ in 2009 and forecasts economic crisis as the future norm existing beyond the recovery from recession. For me, as we enter the fifth consecutive year of ‘current crisis’, this poses the question ‘double dip’ or new economic environment?

Secondly, specialising in leadership, strategy and cohesion; the prevailing economic environment provides opportunities which simply do not exist in a benign situation. As much as regularity, dependability and certainty instil confidence they are the arena of the manager; whereas, irregularity, challenge and uncertainty provide opportunities not otherwise available to a leader. No amount of tweaking of financial mechanisms, directives or policy changes are likely to impact sufficiently on global competition, political instability, energy concerns and climate issues to remove risk and uncertainty.

So what should we do? ‘Batten down the hatches’ and rely on the same old measures and techniques that got us where we are today whilst hoping someone will ‘fix’ something somewhere to make all things good again? Or realise leadership and organisational adaptability are required to overcome the relentless challenges of our ‘new economic environment’? The problem is this, as difficult as the former may be it is undoubtedly a much easier option than the behavioural and organisational change required by the latter. Either way, the outcome is not guaranteed success though one course of action is more likely to succeed than the other.

The message in the HBR article referred to does not appear to have been popular at the time and I doubt it will be today. Perhaps because there is no ‘spoonful of sugar’ offered with the medicinal advice therein. This said, it remains worth reading all the same on

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