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Why Leaders must find the Courage to Un-learn the concepts of ‘Success’ & ‘Growth’!

A bold look at the world we live in, and where it is headed if nothing changes in our ways of living, educating, thinking, growing & leading. We shed some light on why we are where we are & what needs to change in our societal & leadership models.

by Evelyne Legaux on 20-06-2023


How often do we take time out of our daily/weekly schedule to step back & reflect on the world we live in today? Presumably not often enough… humans having a tendency to prioritize their own short term needs & wants.

It is a worthwhile exercise though, because what we are most likely to see is a world faced with unprecedented global challenges: climate change related disasters, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution as a time-bomb, East-West geostrategic competition, military conflicts in Europe & elsewhere with their daily cohort of atrocities, the rise of populism & autocracies, the growing rejection of traditional politics in democratic countries, the threats posed by generative AI to data privacy, intellectual property rights, ethics or cybersecurity, and so on…

What this simply means is that, while planet Earth itself will survive albeit in a different state, humanity is on a self-destructive trajectory & the world is becoming an increasingly threatening place to be… So, let’s explore a few essential questions here & how they challenge the concept of leadership.


How did we get to where we are today, in the first place? What does this tell us about our global governance, political systems & societal models?

It is fair to say that, if the world is failing humanity in many regards with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, something isn’t quite right in our political systems & social structures, nor in our traditional leadership model…

  • Truth is in Western democracies, the entire education & economic system was built on the idea that personal ‘success’ must be measured in terms of learning, doing, achieving & gaining therefore - by extension – having, possessing & ultimately exhibiting. To reach such ‘standards of success’ that society expects from them & evaluates or judges them against, not only are people inevitably driven by their egoistic mind & personal interest, but they also keep pursuing individualistic goals thus intrinsically competing with each other.

This is equally applicable in all walks of life, and primarily in professional life, career progression & business at large where delivering tangible results for shareholders & other stakeholders, logically is the number 1 priority.

  • In addition, those in leadership roles have more often than not been selected according to their technical knowledge & general soft skills, without any serious consideration for their ability to lead other people. Some studies have shown that, as a result, the general level of people’s engagement at work is currently very low. While corporates have tried to fill the gap by sending their (aspiring) leaders to short dedicated courses, both leaders & those being led have been suffering for decades from a blatant lack of proper leadership education. However, those on a treadmill to conventional ‘success’ may not understand that…
  • To be noted as well that while strategic leadership, as opposed to operational leadership, requires an ability to think ahead & understand the bigger picture, many of those in executive leadership roles are not thought-leaders…

The combination of all the above ingredients has created a perfect recipe for failure whose chaotic outcomes can be observed, witnessed or experienced across the entire world today.

If people engagement is low, chances are leadership effectiveness is low too. And if leaders continue to be chosen based on the same old criteria & keep doing things the same old ways, not only will they be crushed by the whirlwind of change, but humanity itself is at risk of perishing…

In actuals facts, the immediate world around us is changing very fast with new rules of engagement, news ways of working, new expectations & new technologies. Profound shifts are impacting corporates, with many leaders utterly unprepared to navigate same, feeling overwhelmed & caught in the web of doing... what is not right &/or not important…

So, something needs to change at the root of our political & societal systems, starting with awareness and a shift in mindset & priorities…


What should leaders – whether in the corporate world or elsewhere - do?

  • . First & foremost, leaders must take a honest look at where the world is headed, and be brave enough to re-align their priorities with today’s biggest threats, so as to bring back hope to people. Doing this though requires self-abnegation, courage and ability to think big & wide!
  • . Once they are able to develop a clear vision for the future, leaders wherever they are – businesses, public bodies, international institutions, etc… - must articulate that vision & take a stand for it!
  • . As for business leaders & policymakers in particular, they need to fundamentally rethink the concept of growth at the root. What is the purpose of economic growth? What kind of growth do they want to achieve going forward? Should the economy grow for the sake of growing, no matter the impact on living beings, whoever or whatever these might be? What kind of growth do they want to hand-over to their children? What sort of criteria should be used to measure the success of growth going forward?
  • . Such a thought-process does require a profound & resolute mindset shift, because leaders are faced with making the conscious decision to NOT follow their predecessors’ path. Leaders must instead break away from it & be comfortable with the idea of unlearning what the system we live in has taught them so far, in order to make space for re-learning in the light of a renewed & smarter definition of success.
  • . While corporate awareness is growing, most leaders will likely need support on a journey that is very emotional in nature. The actual challenge is such that learning & getting help from peers in networking support groups or otherwise, appear utterly essential here.
  • . Last but not least, leaders must prioritize their people, and most importantly their young people who hold the keys to the future & will judge past leaders against their respective legacy…


The so-called ‘Gen Z’, or the importance of getting it!

With the traditional autocratic top-down leadership style at a loss in our post-pandemic world, new leadership style & skills need to emerge, and the sooner the better. Employees, other stakeholders across the board & some of the leaders themselves are actually asking to be freed from the old concept of leadership, in favour of a more horizontal, collaborative & human-centric approach.

Interestingly, more & more voices are calling for leaders to turn towards ‘Gen Z’ & to thoroughly listen to what those young people born 15 to 25 years ago & now starting their work life, have to say…

  • Firstly, it is important for leaders to realise that, from 9/11 all the way to the present war in Ukraine, young people have gone through crisis after crisis against the backdrop of global terrorism & job insecurity for their elder carers, in an increasingly hostile world. This is in sharp contrast to the previous generations that enjoyed steady growth & socio-economic progress, in a post-WWII politically stable international order.

A direct consequence is that the ‘Gen Z’ cohort understands that the world needs to become a better place, and is looking for assurances in relation to its own future…

  • Secondly, the past few decades have witnessed a growing loss of faith in both religions & politics, with historical institutions such as churches & parties losing significant ground & influence over people’s lives, thus causing a shift in the latter’s system of values & beliefs. As a result, young people are both a lot more demanding when it comes to key human values such as inclusivity, equity or non-discrimination, and very doubtful of any honesty, integrity or loyalty that can be attributed to today’s leaders & organisations.

Another consequence is that ‘Gen Z’ is a generation of sceptics whose trust & respect can only be earned if they pass the test of authenticity.

  • Thirdly, the young people’s relation to money is very different to that of their parents or grand-parents, in the sense that they see it as a means rather than a goal. They value time, job satisfaction, wellbeing & the difference they are empowered to make, a lot more than money & any material possessions. Not to mention the fact that many successfully play with crypto-currencies, therefore earn an income irrespective of whether they have a job or not.

With ‘Gen Z’ not letting money & material possessions define their social status, a clear impact for leaders here is that it is harder to influence & engage young people who do not see their monthly pay check as an incentive & may even be financially independent elsewhere.

  • Lastly, young people also have a very different relation to technology than previous generations. Since birth, they have been immersed into the digital world therefore have developed an innate & intuitive understanding of how it works & how to best use it.

Another direct consequence is that ‘Gen Z’ clearly expects to use & leverage the latest technologies to perform their job, which ought to be simple & fast to execute as a result, thus leaving time for more interesting value-add activities.

Bottom line is young people have a clear vision for the future that they want! Those leaders who can understand the ‘Gen Z’ mindset & inspire them, will attract the right talents to build the right future.


Visionary leadership - nurtured by purpose, courage, authenticity & compassion - is the way forward in our world that is deeply evolving towards a new era. Courage often occurs to people when they have no other option to survive, this is where humanity is at today… And this is why ‘disruptive’ leaders must emerge, bringing new ways of thinking & values that will earn ‘Gen Z’’s respect, trust & engagement.


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