Leading in a Volatile Society


The question of effective leadership continues to plaque modern society.  This month, the captain of a cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy has received public scrutiny.  The cruise ship, Costa Concordia, had more than 4,200 people aboard when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Panic filled the ship; cruise workers appeared unprepared for the emergency. Yet, the biggest casualty was leadership.  Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning his vessel during its ground. 

Tapes were released of a conversation between the cruise captain and a coast guard officer who demanded the captain return to the ship: “What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue…Get back on board now (expletive) sake!”  What has been abandoned globally is the lack of effective leadership in a volatile society.

Today’s workers exist in a volatile world. According to the Forrester Research, approximately 3.3 million jobs and $136 billion in wages could be moved overseas to countries like India or China by 2015. In fact, many developing countries are projected to continue to grow strongly over the next decade.

Furthermore, these countries steadily shift to consumer-led growth instead of export-led growth.  The dollar spiral downward and foreign currency goes upward.  China and India have added millions to their labor force creating products as well as outsourcing their services abroad at a fraction of what American workers can provide. 

These upstart countries are positioning themselves to become the next Super Power.  The middle class hold their breath as the threat of more job cuts become a reality, thereby further eroding their quality of life. Yet, business executives express little moral remorse as they keep American workers at bay.   

There needs to be a different type of leadership in a volatile world. Today’s hypercompetitive environment needs high performance organizations to sustain market success. Yet, many organizations operate from the same business structure from the Industrial Revolution.

In this setting, managers oversee workers to control their performance due to the fact that managers believe workers are inferior and have no passion to work. Yet, most workers are willing to work if they are placed in a position to be successful and there are shared rewards.

Yet, I have heard too many complaints about bad bosses and uncaring organizations. There are too many managers and organizations that do not value the importance of their employees.

These same managers are great at distributing tasks but are unsuccessful at motivating their own workers.  Therefore, future leaders will need to be able to navigate global markets while inspiring their workers.

What characteristics are needed for today’s leaders in a volatile environment?

 © 2012 by Daryl D. Green