We are not alone

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“Today’s leaders have been trained in a world that no longer exists”

– Marc Davis, Partner Architect, Microsoft Online Services Division, Microsoft Corporation

This short and succinct sentence sums up why many leaders from across the globe and in almost every sector are facing the challenges they are.

I read it in this year’s Global Agenda Outlook – a comprehensive but surprisingly digestible report of insights, views and predictions on today’s pressing global issues – covering everything from the effects of globalization to geopolitical risks and the post-2015 development agenda.

The report is produced by the World Economic Forum – an organisation that has evolved from a once-a-year roundtable in a small Swiss town, to a globally-renowned insight hub into some of the biggest issues we face in the world. Outlook is its flagship piece of research, and is based on engagement with a unique network of more than 1,500 experts from the fields of academia, politics, government and business. In short, if ever there was a single briefing document on top line problems facing leaders from across the globe and in almost every sector, this would be it.

The challenges of globalization, economic growth, geopolitics, hyperconnectivity and the post-2015 development agenda are discussed, along with insights into how they might be tackled.

But the biggest emerging challenge of all for 2013 and beyond, says the report, is the need for clear, dynamic and adaptive leadership. And this is hardly surprising, according to Martina Gmür, Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils at the World Economic Forum, for: “almost all of today’s leaders grew up in a totally different world to the one we now share.”

In other words, just as the world is changing at a scale and pace that we have never seen before, so must the approach of our leaders.

The report notes that the mistrust in governments and institutions is growing, as are the struggles economic and political systems face when dealing with the interdependencies of the physical and digital worlds. There is a strong need for partnership working, and, interestingly, it asks whether it’s time for leaders to revisit the core values of business and society in their decision making. As one contributor put it, values that hold the ‘common good’ as a critical metric should be aimed for along with decision-making based on how future generations will be impacted.

In many ways, then, the biggest challenges that our healthcare leaders are facing are not unique to us and our health system. Many of the goliath-like problems we face know no boundaries – they are shared by leaders across the globe.

And, just like leaders from across the globe, we will not succeed in meeting the challenges that lie ahead without transforming the way we lead, in our new world. We need much more collaborative approaches and active engagement with staff and patients in shaping our services, and to be able to build cross system relationships. Our leaders need to embrace technology and new ways of working, while at the same time create cultures where decisions are based on values like the ‘common good’ and compassionate care.

It’s a tall order but I think all the less daunting if we remember that challenges we face are not unique to our system. We’re not alone.

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