New context? New Leadership: the 5Cs

Looks like we are taking for granted that we will find a new normal when Covid19 is finally over, if and when we ever get there. But this idea of a “New Normal” is not actually new.  According to Wikipedia, “New Normal is a term in business and economics that refers to financial conditions following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the aftermath of the 2008–2012 global recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”  From a psychological standpoint, we understand why this term has been accepted and used globally. It is about the legitimate need that each of us is feeling in our bones. We desperately desire to return to some kind of normality, after accepting months of total disruption in our personal and professional lives, not to mention the pain of the thousands who died and the millions who got Covid19.  

Let’s pause for a second by reflecting on the definition of “normal.” 

“Normal: conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern.” “Average, predictable, ordinary.” But my favorite definition of normal is “what people expect”. Can we then really assume that the new normal is up for grabs, just around the corner, and that we will simply move to a place where we once again come to know what to expect? In this article I suggest re-naming “new normal” – which is simply delusional and unrealistic – to something very different. I believe that we now have five elements, or ingredients, which are constantly present in our lives. I call them the 5Cs. 

  1. The first one is Chaos, which is the perfect storm of speed and uncertainty combined. The peculiarity of this moment is that speed is not linear, but exponential, and it is mainly driven by technological changes. Do you remember the prophecy of Gordon Moore, Founder of Intel Group? “The performance of Computers doubles every 18 months.” If we add the geopolitical changes and the social unrest we’re seeing today, we can understand Kaos, a Greek term. 
  2. The second C is Crisis, and it also comes from the Greek. A crisis is a difficult or dangerous time in which a solution is needed – and fast. It is a term derived from medicine that implies the need to move quickly with a clear decision. We know that a half decision means a squared mess, and that Crisis does not build character, but rather reveals it. If we leave inept and unfit Leaders at the head of a company or a country during a crisis, their true colors will be revealed clearly, a sort of acid test of their leadership.
  3. The third C is Complexity. We are used to framing problems as merely “complicated.”  A complicated problem requires technical expertise with a disciplinary focus. But the magnitude of the problems we are facing today force us to de-code complexity by constant learning, adapting, sense-making and leveraging interdisciplinary as a norm. Complexity requires trust and cooperation to solve problems along with the authority to impose someone’s views upon others. 
  4. The fourth C is Confusion or – if you prefer – Ambiguity. Nothing is going to be a ‘clear cut’, easily distinguishable from a distance. Ambiguity means that concepts, ideas, situations have different meanings for different people, hence the need to reconcile these differences by including everyone in the conversation. 
  5. The last one, Change – actually let me scale that up to Constant Change.  Do you remember the book Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson? It’s more than 20 years old but still very helpful to internalize the fact that change is not the exception but the constant in our lives. We were all amazed to see our capacity to adapt so rapidly during Covid19 for example when we started working from home. Ironically the only normal, stable component in our lives is going to be constant change. 

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