Essential future skills (1) – Get Comfortable with being Uncomfortable

Essential future skills (1) – Get Comfortable with being Uncomfortable

To lead in the Innovation Age, requires a set of behaviors that mainly focus on the HOW, because the WHAT is changing so fast. I interviewed several respected South African leaders who are leading through these tumultuous times. The first skill that they identified is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

1.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Dominique Pienaar (Dom) is the CEO of DUO Marketing. DUO Marketing is a niche player in the PR and marketing field specialising in technology companies.  She said that one of the key skills of leaders is agility and the ability to change with speed. In her instance, not that long-ago clients were asking for digital marketing strategies and as a company they were not positioned to deliver on this; but were quick to solve that problem, hire strategically and are now looking at nearly half their business being digital. Pivoting and changing with speed is essential. 

Cathy Smith, Managing Director SAP Africa, added that traditionally leaders had to know everything, but with the rate and pace of change that has become impossible. One of her greatest strengths is being comfortable saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand”. Things are grey, and no one has certainty, there are disruptions around every corner with new entrants creating disturbances in traditional markets, together with political instability and unpredictability, climate change and technology accelerating at breakneck pace. “There is a lack of clarity and leaders can’t provide it. So, it is the role of the leader to provide inspirational vision. We are going on a journey to learn about this new world, come with me.” As a leader you must make decisions despite the lack of clarity. It is uncomfortable, but essential.

She adds that the days of hierarchy are over. “My organisational structures include communities”. Formal and stiff structures constrain individual experimentation and levels in an organisation make for cumbersome and slow decision making. Errol Braithwaite, MD Franki Africa, is on a drive to simplify. Mature companies have huge legacy in terms of systems and processes that stop the business from working. He is determined to drive simplicity in his organisation and asks people who are entrenched in their roles to ask themselves the question, “If I stopped doing what I am doing right now, would it affect the company bottom line?”

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity are the realities of today and will continue to be so in the future. Noted futurist and author Bob Johansen says. “It won’t be getting easier and leaders must accept this reality.” “You can’t allow your own discomfort to cast a shadow. Negative people can’t run successful businesses. You have to manage your own psychology”, says Errol.

Top Tips

  1. Stop pressurising yourself to know everything, it’s impossible. 
  2. Give yourself permission to ask questions to create as much clarity as you can and make decisions to move forward. 
  3. Look inwards to assess how you feel and reframe obstacles to be more energizing.

I’ll share more of their insights in short posts. Or to read the full findings read my ebook here:

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